A position is a statement of the League's point of view on an issue, arrived at through member study and consensus.
LWV is organized at three levels. Members of the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area (LWVCA) are also members of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina (LWVSC) and the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS). Positions may be adopted by national, state and local leagues.
National positions serve as the basis for action at the state and local levels, as well as nationally. In general, positions already exist at the state and national level on issues we care about -- from healthcare to the environment to voting rights. They give us a common platform on which we take action on behalf of our members.
Local studies and positions are undertaken to address an inherently local issue, or to fill in a gap where a state or national position does not exist or to focus on a specific aspect of a national position that is relevant to our community.
Listed below are the positions that have been approved by the LWVCA board over many years and have been used as a basis for additional LWVCA action within our jurisdiction: Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties in South Carolina.
Local Government: Adopted prior to 2000
The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area supports allowing control of local issues by local governing bodies and citizen access to and participation in decision-making.
Specific areas of support:
- Continued equalization programs for assessment of property in Charleston County.
- Effective use of regional planning mechanisms so that the region fully utilizes existing resources before investing in new infrastructure and reconciles economic and environmental issues and concerns in ways that can benefit all.
- Non-partisan municipal election.
- Consolidation of city/county government services.
- The Council-Administrator system of government in Charleston County.
- Implementation of home rule.
- Comprehensive public library systems.
- Programs for children at risk, with emphasis on early intervention regarding teenage violence, and youth programs and facilities at tax-supported and other licensed sites.
Background: The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area was established in 1947. The founding members supported local and county government that was open and responsive to citizens. They studied the structure of county government and encouraged regional approaches to waste disposal and water quality and governmental responsibility for care of the indigent sick and children at risk.
They supported home rule. The LWVCA Voters Voice, June, 2000 states: "Whereas Home Rule Legislation became state law in the mid 1970's, the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area supports the position of allowing control of local issues by local governing bodies."
Citizen Participation in Government: Adopted, 1996
The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area supports efforts to:
- Promote and encourage participation by all citizens in the electoral process, particularly those demographic groups that historically have lower percentages registered and voting.
- Promote campaign finance reform.
- Promote & provide opportunities for citizens to be better informed on public issues and candidate positions.
- Rebuild civic participation by strengthening the process including poll workers and changes in precincts.
- Promote and encourage diversity in representation.
- Promote a voting process that is fair, secure and accessible.
Background: This LWVCA position is an affirmation of the basic principles of the League of Women Voters: Our basic belief in representative government and in the individual liberties established in the Constitution of the United States; that every citizen should be protected in the right to vote; and that a democracy needs active participation in government by informed citizens.
"Making Democracy Work" is an ongoing LWVUS campaign for local leagues nationwide to take action within their communities to encourage active citizen participation in government. On a continuing basis since its inception, LWVCA has conducted extensive voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns, distributed information about candidates and issues, held public candidate forums and educational issue-oriented forums. Recent priority issues are ethics reform/ dark money and redistricting; workshops on legislative advocacy and how to run for office; and increasing voter participation in local government.
Hear the keynote speaker at the LWVUS convention, Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
Public Transportation: Adopted, 2000
The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area supports citizen oversight of expanded regional public transportation services. Specific areas of support:
- An equitable and dedicated source of funding for regional public transportation services.
- An improved area transportation system that addresses the needs of Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester county residents, particularly in relation to job access programs.
- Provisions for alternative methods of regional transportation.
- Provisions for land-use planning in relation to bus and light rail corridors, as well as future transportation hubs.
- Provisions for an efficient, environmentally sound, and fully coordinated system.
- Citizen participation/input in distribution of funds.
- Fiscally responsible management.
Background: The Voters Voice, Nov-Dec, 2001 states: "The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area has studied and supported public transportation at the local level for over five years." In 2002, this position became a priority action item. LWVCA publicly supported a half-cent sales tax referendum on the November ballot to fund mass transit in Charleston County as a means to provide an equitable and dedicated source of funding for an efficient public transportation system.
School Governance Reform: Adopted, 2004
The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area supports amending the law creating the Consolidated Charleston County School District, Act 340 of 1967 so that:
- the Superintendent has administrative and managerial authority, with full control of personnel assignments;
- the Superintendent is held accountable to implement the policies set by the Board of Trustees; and
- the Constituent School Boards are removed from personnel decisions.
Background: The LWV has long held the position that every child should have the opportunity for an excellent education. In 2003, LWVCA, in collaboration with other local civic and nonprofit organizations, examined the law creating the consolidated Charleston County School District (Act 340 of 1967) to determine what impact it had on the quality of education in the Charleston County School District. The law created a County School Board plus eight Constituent School Boards, each of which is responsible for student discipline, approval of personnel changes and busing in its district.
The study found that the division of responsibility among boards caused redundancy, delays in making decisions, confusion and frustration among staff. LWVCA took the position that the authority to employ and place personnel should reside solely with the Superintendent and further that the proper role of County School Board should be to establish objective educational goals for which the superintendent is accountable.
[N.B. In 2007, the SC legislature amended Act 340 to give the Superintendent sole authority to "employ and assign the teachers and other personnel necessary for the efficient operation of the schools."]
School Finance: Adopted, 2007
The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area finds that that fiscal constraints imposed by the Property Tax Valuation Reform Act of 2006 jeopardize the ability of local school districts to provide every child, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability or economic status, with the opportunity for an excellent education.
LWVCA supports amendments to the Property Tax Valuation Reform Act of 2006:
- To allow voters in local school districts to override the millage cap to meet unexpected expenses and provide opportunities that its residents want for their children
- To allow school districts and local governments to seek alternative methods of raising and distributing revenue.
LWVCA wil monitor implementation of the Property Tax Valuation Reform Act and its impact on the Charleston County School District.
Background: The Property Tax Valuation Reform Act (Act 388) of 2006 essentially was a tax swap. Beginning in 2007, homeowners, but not businesses or rental properties, were exempted from paying property taxes to fund the operating budgets of public school districts. (Homeowners still can be taxed for school infrastructure and capital improvements.) To replace the lost revenue, the state sales tax was raised from 5 to 6 percent. Revenue from the added penny goes into a newly created Homestead Exemption Fund (HEF) to reimburse school districts for the lost property taxes. School districts reimbursements are based on a complex formula that includes an annual "inflation factor" plus growth in population of its county. If the HEF is not sufficient to pay the reimbursements, the general fund must cover the difference.
LWVSC opposed A.388 because: it replaces a relatively stable and progressive source of funds, property tax, with the more volatile, cyclical and regressive sales tax; it reduces fiscal home rule with a significant shift in control of school finances from local officials to the state. Local school districts no longer have the flexibility to raise revenue to meet indigenous needs or to address large cost increases beyond their control, such as high student population growth.
Restrictions in the law will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for schools to maintain high-quality programs or invest in long-term improvement. LWVCA supported amendments that would give local school districts the option to raise funds to meet local needs as they arise.
Green Schools: Adopted, 2010
The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area supports adoption of green standards for public schools in the tri-county area. These standards would include energy efficiency, waste reduction, improved indoor air quality, increased public health, positive environmental impacts and cost savings Specific areas of support:
Illegal Drug Use Policy: Adopted, 2010
- Encourage local school districts to: set sustainable performance standards for existing buildings; document and report on the performance of each existing school building regarding these standards; and take reasonable action to improve performance.
- Adopt sustainable building design, construction and performance standards for new construction and major renovation.
Background: The LWVCA conducted a two year study to determine costs, benefits and feasibility of adopting green standards for public schools in SC, particularly in the tri-county area, as a means of saving money and improving student, teacher performance.
Illegal drug use should be considered a public health issue. Drug use and drug addiction should be addressed by substance abuse treatment programs and education, instead of incarceration.
Background: At the 2009 annual meeting, LWVCA members authorized a year-long study about how the U.S. drug prohibition policy affects drug use and related crime in South Carolina. At that time LWVUS and LWVSC did not have positions on drug laws.
A committee undertook the study "to educate ourselves thoroughly on the subject." The result was a well researched and extensive report that included: review and evaluation of the history of drug laws and policies in SC; the effects of current laws and policies governing the sale and use of illegal drugs; medical care and public health; the social and economic costs of relying on prohibition, law enforcement, and incarceration to counter drug use; and possible alternatives to current policies. In 2010, the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area adopted the position that "illegal drug use should be considered a public health issue and not a cause for incarceration."
At the 2011 League of Women Voters of South Carolina convention, LWVCA lobbied for state-wide adoption of our local position. The convention delegates agreed on the amended version that appears above. The position adopted by the League of Women Voters of South Carolina supersedes the position previously adopted by the LWVCA.
Read the full report: Mapping the Elephant: Illegal Drugs in South Carolina