Palmetto Sunrise: House Ethics Committee meets over ‘legal issue’

Gavin Jackson/Staff The South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia on April 25, 2016.

COLUMBIA -- The House Ethics Committee meets this morning just to hold a closed door legal briefing and subsequent discussion.

Sources earlier told The Post and Courier the hearing would address sexual harassment claims made against Rep. Eddie Southard, R-Moncks Corner, by a female House page.

The meeting was scheduled Thursday morning shortly after news broke about the reported incident. Southard said if he resigned, as leaders told him to, he wouldn’t need to go before the committee and the story wouldn’t leak. He considered stepping down, but word apparently had already spread about his situation.

“You shouldn’t be knowing about it because I was assured that no one would know about it, except me and three other people,” Southard said Thursday.

When the House Ethics Committee meets to discuss such a matter it is typically printed on the meeting agenda, for example “In The Matter of Former Speaker of the House Robert W. Harrell, Jr.,” earlier this year. It is possible members will discuss the matter in executive session, but take no action in open session. Regardless, P&C reporters have been told the meeting will be worth attending.

Besides the ethics hearing, House and Senate meeting calendars are light this week as lawmakers return to session in both chambers at noon to tackle bills ahead of the May 1 crossover.

City to push new tolls, sales tax for I-526 work

Charleston City Council will vote at 5 p.m. on a resolution to support asking for eight more months to develop a plan to cover the Interstate 526 project’s more than $300-million shortfall. And that plan could include a toll road and a sales tax increase. Check with The Post and Courier for developments on this story.

Winthrop Poll out Thursday

Winthrop University professor and pollster Scott Huffmon and his team will have fresh poll data this week on state and national race relations, prompted by 2015 events.

The poll, to be released Thursday, comes a more than year after the Baltimore riots and death of Walter Scott—a motorist who fled from a traffic stop and fought with North Charleston officer Michael Slager—was shot him five times as he ran away. Slager said Scott had grabbed his Taser before a bystander captured the shooting death on video.

The June massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, which prompted lawmakers to take down the Confederate battle flag, “seemed to spark a statewide discussion about race,” a university press released said.

“This Winthrop Poll takes a deep dive into how differently white and black residents view various issues related to politics and quality-of-life.” Questions also focused on feelings toward the Black Lives Matter movement and police, as well as concerns about jobs, healthcare, and being the victim of a violent crime.

Road to the White House

Voters in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island cast their ballots today in Democratic and Republican primaries.

Current Republican poll averages show New York billionaire Donald Trump leading by more than 20 points in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland polls. Connecticut polls show Ohio Gov. John Kasich could take a solid second place over Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Democrat Hillary Clinton is less than 5 points ahead of Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in Connecticut, but Clinton’s lead increases to a 16 and 24-point margin in Pennsylvania and Maryland, respectively.

Today’s headlines:

With Joint Base Charleston closures unlikely this year, stakeholders stay vigilant (The Post and Courier)

Questioning gets heated during hearing for next S.C. Supreme Court chief justice (The Post and Courier)

South Carolina governor highlights efforts to employ ex-prisoners (The Post and Courier)

Senate bill leaves Capt. Sam’s Spit road up in the air (The Post and Courier)

Police did not fire at teen who killed officer, then himself (The Post and Courier)

Gov. Nikki Haley to testify about impact of closing Guantanamo Bay on Capitol Hill Thursday (The Post and Courier)

Mass shootings slow in Georgia, until they don’t (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Battle over N.C. transgender law intensifies as lawmakers reconvene (Reuters)

Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement (The Charlotte Observer)

Regifting donor cash paves way to re-election for Georgia lawmakers (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

54 HB2 opponents arrested inside NC Legislative Building (The Charlotte Observer)

Wear a mask? In Georgia you could be arrested (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Agenda: Cruise traffic study; New Flagship plans; N. Chs. police review greeted with hope and skepticism (Charleston City Paper)

McDonnell case at Supreme Court could redefine political corruption (The Washington Post)

Megyn Kelly to interview Donald Trump (POLITICO)

Decision time for Maryland voters (The Washington Post)

Confusion Reigns on First Day of Cruz-Kasich Alliance (Bloomberg)

Driven up the wall by Trump, Mexico looks to recast image in U.S. (Reuters)