COLUMBIA -- Republican voters will have a chance in June to call South Carolina lawmakers to action by speaking up about the national health care expansion and capping state spending.
Karen Floyd, the state GOP chairwoman, said Wednesday that the party will add two advisory questions to the June 8 primary ballot.
"Both are designed to send a strong message," she said. "These issues are important to the Republican voters and we expect action."
The first will ask voters if they agree that the state Legislature should make it illegal to "force" residents to purchase health care insurance or comply with the national health care plan.
The second question asks voters if the Legislature should limit state spending increases to the rate that the economy grows each year.
Even if approved by a majority, the questions can't force the Legislature to take any action.
Neal Thigpen, a retired Francis Marion University political science professor, said parties use "red meat" questions on the primary ballots to increase turnout.
State Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler said the ballot questions are meaningless and will mislead voters.
"It is certainly not anything that is going to change anyone's life," Fowler said.
Floyd insists the questions are valuable by allowing individuals' opinions to be heard and drawing more primary voters into the process. The party will try to identify those voters and keep them engaged through November, she said.
Efforts are under way to block the health insurance expansion in South Carolina and limit spending by the Legislature.
Floyd acknowledged that fact and added that the questions also will help to energize the electorate.
The House and Senate this week agreed to send the governor a plan to impose spending limits, including by a constitutional amendment. The House voted 92-13 on Tuesday to put the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Senate voted 42-0 for the constitutional amendment.
Also on health care, state Attorney General Henry McMaster, a Republican, has signed on to a federal court challenge of the new law along with at least 17 other states. McMaster, who is running for governor, said recently the legal challenge is bipartisan and reflects a nationwide concern about the constitutionality of the federal law. All of the states' attorneys general are Republicans, except for Louisiana, where the post is held by a Democrat.
The health care expansion would provide about 500,000 more South Carolina residents with insurance coverage by 2014. The expansion is estimated to cost more than $900 million over the next decade, but advocates insist that the plan will save money over the long term.
Republicans and Democrats put questions on the primary ballots in 1998, according to State Election Commission public information officer Chris Whitmire. Republicans asked whether the personal property taxes on cars and trucks should be eliminated. Democrats asked whether the party's voters supported a state-run lottery.
Before that, Republicans asked in 1994 if elected officials should be subjected to term limits, if the Confederate battle flag should come down from the Statehouse dome and whether property taxes for homeowners and businesses should be eliminated in South Carolina.
The questions won't cost the state or the party any cash, Whitmire said.
Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or email@example.com.