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.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

There are two things that I take very seriously with regard to my duties as your representative. First, I do my dead level best to give you the most accurate, and most up-to-date information, both in this column and in my other constituent outreach efforts. Second, when I fall short of the mark, I want to immediately acknowledge my shortcoming, and do whatever is necessary to make it right.

Last week, in my enthusiasm over the Arts and Seafood Festival, I credited my pal Barry Connor and his crew for putting together this fine event that kicks off today. While Bluffton Rotary is the umbrella under which the festival is organized, and Barry is the current Rotary president, the event is actually run by its own committee and has a ton of volunteers, some Rotary folks and some not.

The Arts and Seafood Festival this year is headed up by the incomparable Mary O’Neill, to whom I extend heartfelt regrets for my unintentional slight. As o­ne who is more than passing familiar with how it feels to work hard o­n a project o­nly to see the credit go to someone else, I am truly sorry for not doing better research before committing my thoughts to print. To his credit, it was Barry who put me right o­n this.

I hope that each of you will take the opportunity to come out this week and enjoy what Mary and her crew have prepared for you. You will be impressed with the level of organization and the creativity that has gone into putting o­n this weeklong celebration.

While we are o­n the topic, I want to let you know that American Legion Post 205 is having their Veterans Day Golf Tournament. It is a nine hole, two person scramble, to be held at Old Carolina Golf Club. For more info, call Bob Ennever at 705-6953, Mike Miranda at 757-6811, Bruce Rafinski at 705-5873, or call the Old Carolina Golf Club.

Last week, I mentioned that there is good news o­n the Waddell Mariculture Center and the Coastal Caucus. o­n November 13-14, Friends of the Rivers will be hosting a tremendous event as part of the annual gathering of the Coastal Chamber Alliance, which is a joint effort of all the Chambers of Commerce along the coast of South Carolina. Members of the legislative Coastal Caucus are invited to share the event and enjoy an afternoon of informational entertainment and a Lowcountry Boil by Sigler’s Rotisserie and Seafood. This all takes place o­n the grounds of the River House and grounds of the Waddell Mariculture Center in Greater Bluffton. We expect a good turnout as interest is already high.

On Friday, the event moves to the Westin Resort o­n Hilton Head Island and will culminate with a legislators o­nly meeting of the Coastal Caucus.

This gathering is hosted by Friends of the Rivers, along with the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors, the South Carolina Realtors, and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

I’m certainly looking forward to having my legislative colleagues down to enjoy some Lowcountry hospitality, and especially to see the great things Al Stokes and his crew at the Mariculture Center are accomplishing with very modest state support.

Next week, a report o­n the special session that begins today. The news won’t be good, but I am prepared to defend our essential local interests while doing what we must to get past this financial rough patch.