It’s unclear how much credence to give talk that certain well-connected South Carolina lobbyists with ties to the groundhog industry have convinced a powerful state Senator to push forward with a bill that would give the Palmetto State its very own Punxsutawney Phil.

Under the rumored proposal, a massive 12,500-acre groundhog preserve would be set up in the Pee Dee region of the state – home of said state Senator – and each Feb. 2 South Carolina would hold a ceremony of its own in which a groundhog would emerge from its home and predict the coming of spring.

Discussions have already progressed to the point that a name has been devised for the South Carolina groundhog, with the moniker “Carbuncle Cal” being bandied about, and it’s said preliminary plans have been drawn up for the preserve, which would hold up to 1,500 groundhogs.

These groundhogs would not only be available to take Carbuncle Cal’s place should he die, but would be bred and the offspring distributed to communities throughout the state, enabling towns across South Carolina to hold separate Groundhog Days of their own, with the potential to turn Feb. 2 into the state’s most lucrative holiday.

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Innovista’s woes have been much publicized over the past few years.

Some $135 million in public dollars have been spent on two buildings still uncompleted nearly half a decade after they were begun; the private aspect of the “public-private” partnership is dead in the water; and legislators and University of South Carolina officials are still trying to sell taxpayers a bill of goods regarding this fiscal boondoggle.

The most recent news regarding Innovista was released Sunday in yet another puff piece about USC’s research campus printed by The State newspaper under the headline “USC Makes Progress Completing Innovista Research Building.”

According to the story, USC is poised to complete the first of Innovista’s two publicly funded research buildings as the school’s Board of Trustees has approved $15.5 million for the interior work of the final three floors of the five-story Discovery I building.

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