Monday, October 27, 2008

All Might Not Be Lost For Waddell Maricultural Center

The special session got under way last week and it was not a pleasant chore. Some of the cuts were made with an ax and some were more surgical. The large state universities, USC and Clemson, were hit pretty hard. USC-Beaufort was spared to a certain degree, but much of that was a function of their funding baseline being not as high as their sister institutions.

One of the cuts that we absorbed locally was to the Waddell Mariculture Center in Greater Bluffton. I fought this o­ne hard but after the dust settled, Al Stokes and his crew will have to defer their needed maintenance o­n this productive facility. Unfortunately, much of that maintenance has already been delayed and there is a point when their mission will start to be compromised.

However, as I mentioned in previous columns, the Coastal Caucus will meet at the Mariculture Center the middle o­n next month. After seeing the operation, I believe my colleagues will understand the wisdom of investing in this excellent facility. Therefore, I am confident we can revisit these cuts in 60 days, as we begin the budget process in the new session, possibly with a different outcome.

Over the next several months, we will be going back into session a few more times in Columbia. Our financial situation is difficult for a lot of very complex reasons. The o­ne thing that is clear is we don’t have enough money to pay for all the things we want to do, to fund all the programs that have merit. What we are doing o­n a large scale is what many of you are doing o­n a smaller scale, that is, making the hard choices about what is really important.

One of the choices that your representative has made, along with some of the Beaufort County delegation, will be to forego any compensation for our work during this special session.

In a process where there are few bright spots, we did manage to override the veto of the DNA bill. This is the bill, you may remember, that allows law enforcement to take DNA samples of those arrested for crimes. I realize there are serious constitutional issues of self-incrimination, violation of medical privacy, and a host of other potentially troubling aspects to this law. However, for the second year in a row, the FBI has determined that our state is the most violent in the country. I am willing to give our law enforcement this tool to prevent the many rapes and murders that it is likely to prevent, and allow the courts to sort out its constitutionality. At the least, we are likely to get some visibility as to what is acceptable, what is not, and some guidance as to how to tell the difference

One of the aspects of this law that opponents frequently overlook is that DNA evidence can just as efficiently exonerate the innocent as it can convict the guilty.

The rain was a worry for the Arts and Seafood Festival, but by all measures, it was a great success. After the grim budgetary work in Columbia, it was a particular pleasure for me to see my neighbors and friends all working together and enjoying each other and our precious little town. Despite our creaky economy and this looming uncertainty, we still have so much for which to be grateful.