The Donald at The Citadel

Donald Trump

You can’t run for president as a Republican in South Carolina without first visiting The Citadel. Later this month it’s Donald Trump’s turn.

The reality TV host and New York real estate mogul will be honored at the Republican Society’s Patriot Dinner Feb. 22. Also on the bill is U.S. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

“We reached out to him,” Republican Society organizer Eddie Taylor said of getting Trump to appear.

While Trump’s schedule is still in the works, he’s expected to fly into Charleston on his private plane. There will also be a tour of the interior for a group of cadets.

“His own tab,” Taylor said of his flight arrangements.

The Republican Society is a school club with more than 300 members. The Patriot Dinner is the annual fundraiser that helps pay for club members to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference each year in Washington, D.C. About 50 cadets are going to CPAC Feb. 25-28 and will make up the opening day color guard.

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul are just a few of the recent GOP presidential contenders who have visited the school.

Haley gas tax plan a target

Since the start of the current legislative session last month, Statehouse Democrats have held three news conferences taking jabs at Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s roads and income tax proposal.

They’ve continually referred to Haley’s plan as a tax increase not a roads plan.

On Thursday, House and Senate Democrats joined forces to once again criticize Haley.

“I think it’s our responsibility as a minority party to hold the majority accountable,” Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, said afterward. “In order to do that you have to stand up and speak out when you believe they are not taking the right actions on behalf of the people of South Carolina. I think it’s a responsibility we have.”

Conservatives will take their shots at the gas tax this week. On Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity is hosting a “No Gas Tax Hike” Lobby Day at the Statehouse.

“We urge our legislators to oppose any and all plans that include a gas tax hike,” said AFP South Carolina State Director Dave Schwartz.

Haley’s plan would raise the tax on gasoline by 10 cents per gallon over three years while reducing the state income tax from 7 percent to 5 percent over 10 years.

It also calls for restructuring the Department of Transportation. Haley has vowed to veto any increase in the gas tax without the other two parts of her plan.

Wendell Gilliard talks turkey

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard stood on the floor of the House last week and asked why lawmakers wanted to “talk turkey,” referring to what he considered a less-than-priority bill aimed at protecting the state’s turkey population.

The Charleston Democrat was recently accused by Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, of deceiving members on a resolution that would have renamed the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge structure The Sweetgrass Skyway. The backlash was swift, and a Senate panel plans to kill the measure.

But Gilliard wanted to keep talking about it Tuesday. “Did you know that I got bashed for talking about issues irrelevant to the state of South Carolina? Now we’re up here talking turkey. I just want to know what is that going to do for things like domestic violence, gun violence, unsolved murders?” he asked.

The sponsor of the turkey bill, H. 3118, took it in stride. Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, told Gilliard the state must do something to protect the dwindling turkey population. The bill allows the Department of Natural Resources to issue emergency regulations related to hunting turkeys if the population is threatened, among other measures.

The bill passed with only one “nay” vote — Gilliard’s.

Civics test requirement

The national movement to require that high school students correctly answer 60 of 100 questions on the civics portion of the U.S. citizenship test has come to South Carolina.

Lawmakers who support the James B. Edwards Civics Education Initiative will hold a news conference Tuesday at the Statehouse to promote the effort. A House bill has already been filed.

The test already is given to anyone applying to become a U.S. citizen. It includes 100 questions about basic American government and history. The minimum score is 60. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 92 percent of immigrants applying for citizenship pass the test.

But when high school seniors in Arizona and Oklahoma were surveyed, only 4 percent were able to achieve a minimum score, according to supporters.

The test is being pushed nationally by the education-promoting Joss Foss Institute. Their goal is to have all 50 states adopt it by 2017, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

Arizona lawmakers last month made it the first state in the nation to pass the requirement. Critics question whether taking the test promotes learning.