Monday, January 12, 2009

On with the Show, This Is It...

This is it, folks—show time tomorrow. Session officially starts the second Tuesday of the calendar year at noon. You legislator, however, will be in Columbia by 7:30 a.m. completing preparations that began months ago.

A good portion of what happens in Columbia during the first month of session involves my daily contacts with you for the six months prior to that first gavel. The legislative office averages between 300 and 400 constituent contacts per week, year round. Those meetings, calls, emails, faxes, and letters, for the most part, either request that we consider supporting an issue or that we consider o­ne side or the other of particular legislation. My personal inclinations are often a reflection of the preponderance of sentiment that is expressed in those constituent contacts. The point here is that I am your representative in Columbia and I take my role as such very seriously. What makes our partnership work is the frequency and efficiency of our communication. If you have ideas of how we can make our state work better, you and I need to talk.

As I mentioned several weeks ago in this space, your voice in Columbia recently got a little louder and a little more persuasive with my appointment to Ways and Means Committee. The ideas we take seriously in the legislature are the o­nes that get funded. Ways and Means is where the bulk of those conversations begin and end.

It is unfortunate that many of our conversations in committee this session will be about what we can afford to preserve, in terms of state services. While I remain optimistic for the long run, the more I learn about our economic situation in the near term, the more concerning it becomes. We had some lean times several years ago but our fiscal situation today is entirely another matter. What I hear from the state finance and employment folks is pretty much what I am hearing from you locally. Good, stable, productive companies and businesses are facing very hard decisions. There are about to be some hard adjustments across the board.

We all may feel the pinch for a few quarters but the longer-term visibility, especially for southern Beaufort county and District 118 is looking pretty good. For o­ne thing, there is almost complete unanimity among political and business leaders that the way out of these difficult times is not through more taxes, but by way of well-founded, prudent growth. We are currently seeing the benefits of our economic development strategies relative to new jobs moving to the area, witness the expansion of the CareCore operation in the Tech Park/Buckwalter Place area of Bluffton. This was a direct result of strategic cooperation between my office, and the town of Bluffton, Beaufort County, and the Economic Alliance, under the leadership of Kim Statler.

This model of productive cooperation should become more commonplace, especially since your representative is now chairman of the Economic Development Subcommittee of Ways and Means.

A small housekeeping note: Kathy will have the legislative offices in the Calhoun Street Promenade open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for the immediate future. We have also been having phone problems, so I apologize if you could not get through to us last week. I think we are now back up and, as always, anxious to hear from you.