• Haley gives education plans in emotional State of State

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) (AP)ong> - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley outlined her plans to improve education and fight domestic violence at her State of the State address Wednesday.

    But there was plenty of emotion in her speech, too, as she recalled a series of tragedies and crises her state faced in 2015, from the police shooting of an unarmed black man to the killing of nine black churchgoers during Bible study to October's historic floods. She cried as she asked for prayers for the three survivors at the church group, and lawmakers gave them minute-long standing ovation.

    "The state of our state is bent but not broken," Haley said.

    There was one big surprise. Haley left her prepared remarks to call out senators who have not passed her ethics reform proposals. She asked senators who support her call for more disclosure on who pays lawmakers and independent investigations of legislators accused of ethics violations to stand. Sen. Larry Martin, who has backed Haley's proposals, said only about a dozen senators stood.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, we finally got to see what that vote might look like," Haley said.

    The House has already passed the proposals.

    Otherwise, Haley has already spoken about her ideas earlier this month. She again repeated she will only sign a bill increasing the state's gas tax to pay for road improvements if there is not a corresponding cut in income taxes.

    Haley began and closed her speech with a call for continued unity from a state that agreed to bring down the Confederate flag — an event she did not mention in the address. The rebel banner came down less than a month after the nine people were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in June.

    "We are a different South Carolina than we were one year ago. Of that there can be no doubt. A place, a people, cannot go through what we have gone through and not come out changed on the other side. The questions we in this room must ask ourselves are: What does that mean? What do we do with it?"

    Here are some other highlights from Haley's speech:



    Most of the buzz after the speech came from Haley's informal ethics poll. Martin said he had no problem with it because "as you can tell, we've got a very reluctant group of ethics supporters."

    "I was a little surprised by it. But, you know, it's that important to her," said Martin, R-Pickens.

    But in a speech that called for unity several times, calling out senators was a sour note for some.

    "Asking senators to stand up is a bit juvenile," said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia. "It didn't give them a chance to respond on why they might not be for it."

    Senate President Hugh Leatherman would only say senators are working on a bill everyone can support. He refused to say whether the governor chose the proper place to challenge them.

    "We leave that to the governor. You'll have to ask her that," Leatherman said, laughing.



    Haley is making education a cornerstone of her agenda this year. She wants lawmakers to provide $15 million for annual tuition scholarships of up to $7,500 to students who agree to work eight years in schools with high teacher turnover. The money would also go for scholarships for teachers already in those districts who want to get advanced degrees.

    The governor also wants to be able to borrow up to $200 million annually for schools, starting in the 2017-18 school year. Her proposal, to set aside 1 percent of the state's debt capacity for K-12 schools, would require separate legislation. The money would go to improving buildings and other infrastructure.

    "After visiting hundreds of schools across our state, I know exactly what many of today's kids don't have." Haley said. "I have seen the disparities, and I won't stand by and allow them to continue.

    Haley also is asking for $11 million to hire 144 prosecutors statewide. Many of them would help with domestic violence cases.

    "No survivor deserves to show up in court and see a legally untrained police officer arguing his or her side, while a highly paid defense lawyer argues on behalf of the abuser," Haley said. "If you join me, in South Carolina, no survivor ever will again."



    Haley didn't mention her plans for flood relief. She announced in December that she would use additional revenues in the upcoming budget to pay South Carolina's share of the more than $1 billion in damage and asked Congress for $140 million to help poor homeowners, many of whom had no flood insurance. But she isn't asking for extra money for state farmers.

    Democrats said that is inexcusable. "Her unwillingness to help our state's largest industry has put the future of agriculture in South Carolina at risk," Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell said in the Democrats' official response.

    Haley also hasn't made education funding a priority in her five years in office and made South Carolina a much less healthy state because she and Republicans have refused to take federal money to expand Medicaid, Powers Norrell said.

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