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Under the Outhouse

In Under the Outhouse news this week, students at Coastal Carolina University are organizing, a judge offers S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell a “get out of jail free” card, and the latest from South Carolina’s senatorial duo.

Students ‘Unionizing’ at CCU

Students are unionizing at Coastal Carolina University, and no, it’s not the football team. MyHorryNews.com is reporting that a group of students is coming together in an attempt to form an organized “student union” to ensure the student voice is represented in campus affairs. “We want our voices heard and we want students to participate in conversations regarding their education and community,” said Ali Cohen, one student involved with the founding of the union, tells MyHorryNews. “Many organizations in the union are organizations that are trying to bring about change and the CCU Student Union wants to allow for that to happen in a respectable manner.” Cohen states the union is open for all students, but also focuses on underrepresented communities in campus life, such as LGBT issues and “nonsecularism.” The idea of an organized student voice is a great concept, particularly at CCU where the administration is not shy about trampling on student rights (yes, Pres. DeCenzo, we have not forgotten you banning the Surge from campus). And, a student union at CCU could be a powerful counter to such actions. However, in order to be effective, Cohen and others involved in the founding of the group must resist the urge of similar, student-led governing bodies to avoid the same sins common of university administrations; namely, using its structure to punish and chill speech of other student groups for controversial speech that may, at times, be offensive to organizations that are also a part of the union. For example, the student union at British Columbia’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University dropped a policy targeting a pro-life student organization after the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms issued a warning letter to the union about its de facto censorship.

Judge Saves House Speaker Bobby Harrell From Criminal Probe (For Now)

South Carolina Circuit Judge Casey Manning nixed an ongoing investigation into potential criminal activities of House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) in a questionable ruling this week. Attorney General Alan Wilson began a grand jury investigation earlier this year into allegations of public corruption from the Speaker; specifically, Wilson was looking into whether Harrell used large amounts of campaign donations for personal use, in violation of campaign finance laws. However, the ruling from Manning, a rare (and curious) move to stop an official State investigation, ordered the House Ethics Committee (a board described by John Monk of The State as a “relatively toothless body” that is “made up of friends and colleagues of Harrell”) should first determine whether legal action is necessary before any court proceedings being. Wilson said such a process where the House or Senate investigated its own members -- no less the powerful Speaker position -- would grant virtual immunity for members of South Carolina’s General Assembly. “We’re creating a situation where the House Ethics Committee is the supervisor of the criminal prosecution of its own members,” Wilson argued to Manning in court. While Manning’s ruling bars any further investigative action from Wilson, there may be more ahead in a state showdown with historic legal implications for the conduct of state officials. “This Office will vigorously pursue all appellate remedies and will seek to continue this investigation,” Wilson’s office wrote in response to the ruling.

Washington Post Spotlights Sen. Scott

Last week, The Washington Post featured an article on South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. Scott, a Republican from Charleston who Governor Nikki Haley appointed to office in 2013 after Sen. Jim DeMint resigned to take a position at the Heritage Institute, has become a well-respected (and much loved) representative for the state. The article catches Scott at an upstate Goodwill during what he describes as a “listening tour” throughout South Carolina, doing everything from taking incognito positions in places from restaurants to shoe shops. The feature is an enjoyable read, and shines a rare light on Scott, who typically avoids that type of exposure. Even if you disagree with him, it is refreshing to hear an elected official talk about earning the respect of voters rather than trying to become another political celebrity.

Graham to (Finally) Debate Senate Challengers

U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham agreed to debate his Republican challengers in a live event just three days prior to the June 10 primary. The debate will be broadcast on June 7 at 7 p.m. by public broadcast channel, ETV. This is Graham’s first debate with his challengers during the campaign. However, The Sun News reports that the debate’s close proximity to the primary will have little impact on undecided voters, who at that point are likely to have already made up their minds about for whom to vote.

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