Monday, October 26, 2009

Emotions, not politics, too often rule in Columbia

October 26, 2009

Tomorrow I will be headed back to Columbia for the special session of the General Assembly. It is necessary that we tweak some of the criteria for the Employment Security Commission to continue the unemployment benefits for some 7,000 South Carolinians for another 20 weeks.

I consulted with the speaker on this issue last week and we agreed that regardless of whatever complexities might arise from a special session, it was imperative that we do what was necessary to extend those unemployment benefits. Too many families were in jeopardy of losing more than had already been lost because of the current recession.

Law making has been correctly compared with sausage making because you might not want to know too much about the particulars of either. However, I want you to have a fair understanding of how the legislature might have adjourned this spring with such a crucial detail left hanging. It also may give you some idea why your legislator is reluctant to become enmeshed in the personal spats that sometimes erupt between public figures. It invariably leads to distraction from our mission, which is to protect the interests of the citizens of our state.

Technically, the director of the Employment Security Commission should have made certain that the legislature was aware of the necessity of the criteria change for the federally sponsored unemployment benefit extension. Unfortunately, the director, Ted Halley, was in something of a battle with the governor and his allies over things that the governor required of the ESC. The governor was also in a battle with the federal government over acceptance of stimulus money, some of which would go to ESC. As the session progressed, more and more of my colleagues were taking side on multiple issues, some ideological and some simply personal.

When eventually there was a bill, submitted by Rep. Kenny Bingham (R-Lexington), that would have fixed the employment benefit problem, it failed to pass because the bill also gave the governor more power over the ESC, and members were already so divided over the various feuds, plus the fact that there was some confusion over whether the bill would commit the house to continuing the increased employment insurance support after the stimulus expired.

There you have it. There is much more, but the bottom line is we have to go back tomorrow and finish our work. Much of my success in the legislature has to do with the fact that I don’t let my emotions drive my policy agenda. My core political belief is that good jobs support strong families. I can also get along with folks with whom I might have fundamental disagreements, and I can get things done with those same folks because, for me, the work is more important than the credit. Unfortunately, when we let these distractions become emotional issues, the work doesn’t get done.

Some good news: As of 1 July 2009, Beaufort County is the home of world famous Kazoobie Kazoos. According to President and COO, Steven Murray, the company has hired a number of employees and occupies 6500 square feet of production and warehouse space on John Galt Road in Beaufort.

I am confident that other companies are going to locate or expand in Beaufort County for the same reasons as Kazoobie. Next week, I will detail some specific things I will be working on to find those companies and attract more good jobs to our area.