Monday, December 27, 2010

Pre-filed bills help get the year started

Bluffton Today

Finally, we seemed to have gotten our collective minds off politics and the upcoming legislative session and onto this great holiday season. I say this because we processed a mere 103 constituent contacts last week. After being in the multiple hundreds of calls for months, it was a little unsettling to get only a hundred calls. It would seem that most of us are out in the community shopping, socializing, and celebrating the season, not to mention the return of seasonal weather. Good for us.

We will be running a four-day schedule this week, giving Kathy and Mary a little time to prepare for the New Year events. We will be in the office from Monday through Thursday with business as usual.

Our delegation has been busy prefiling bills and getting ready to hit the ground running on the second Tuesday of the new year. We are introducing several economic packages that range from efforts to secure the Heritage Golf Classic to issues dealing with the port situation on the Savannah River.

One of things we are introducing that is a direct result of your input has to do with the “Semper Fi” license tags we want to create. We have a tremendous Marine Corp presence in Beaufort County with the recruit depot at Parris Island and the Marine Corp Air Station. In addition to the active duty component, there are also a huge number of military retirees in our area. I take a great deal of satisfaction in recognizing the military contribution to not only the security of our nation but to the economy of our county and our region.

Another of the initiatives I plan to continue in the next session has to do with some of the language or features in the South Carolina code of laws. There are certain aspects of the code that are outmoded or useless, and some that are no longer representative of our political culture. These need to be excised so that our laws are not constrained by the superfluous or bloated by some of the nonsense that may have been on the books for a hundred years. This is the legislative equivalent of former NYC Mayor Giuliani’s norm setting “broken windows” policy.

In a small housekeeping matter, a certain number of the calls we have received over the last month or so have had to do with property tax assessment, specifically the difference between the 4% and 6% assessment levels. This is an important matter, which must be seriously addressed, but unfortunately, it is a county matter. The good news is that there is an assessor’s office in the county complex on the Bluffton Parkway. The office is staffed by knowledgeable folks, eager to assist you.
Finally, both Sheriff Tanner and Bluffton Police Chief McAllister will have every available officer on the road for the upcoming New Year’s celebration. If you are tempted to drink and drive, please reconsider. Better yet, have a non-drinking, designated driver that will make all the transportation decisions for your party. There are grave consequences for DUI in our state, as well there should be. So please be responsible in your celebrations and join us for a brighter, more prosperous New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beach renourishment returns investment

Bluffton Today

First thing, on behalf of Mary and me, along with our great kids, Shelby and Cole, I want to extend to everyone in House District 118 of Bluffton and Beaufort County a very merry Christmas.

This is truly a time of family and friends, as well as a time to celebrate the reason for the season. Thanks for all the cards, letters, calls, e-mails, and especially the cookies we received over the past couple of weeks.

Our children are home from school and I imagine that many of your children are home as well. As we all make the rounds of holiday parties, please be careful and responsible with alcohol. As parents, we all know the anxiety and subdued panic of hearing the sirens on the road while our children are out attending holiday functions. Please insist on a designated driver when you travel to and from your celebrations, if there is a possibility that alcohol will be served.

My friend Eileen Brenner and her husband Milton invited me to speak to the Sun City branch of the AARP last week. It was a good group of folks and we had a fun time. I’m always a little surprised at how the range of activities at Sun City seems to keep the residents in good shape and involved in the affairs of the community.

It is heartening that older folks still have interests and concerns that extend far beyond that which only directly affects them. Tomorrow, Rep. Andy Patrick and I will meet with officials from the town of Hilton Head and officially present them with a check for $1 million to go toward their upcoming beach renourishment project. These dollars represent an investment that not only provides an outstanding amenity for our residents but also draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Beaufort County each year. The return on investment of these dollars is huge.

There is also a certain satisfaction in repatriating these tax dollars back to Beaufort County. As a representative of a perennial donor county, one of my primary legislative agenda items is to work toward that day when we in Beaufort County get a dollar in value returned to us for each dollar we send to Columbia in taxation. We are still a long way off, but that million dollars is a good start.

This past week I also helped cut the ribbon with Mayor Pro Tempore Hamilton of the town of Bluffton for the new improvements to the Oyster Factory Park in Old Town Bluffton. I was able, along with Oyster Factory operators Larry and Tina Toomer, to secure a $50,000 grant to aid in the project, along with money from Beaufort County and the town of Bluffton.

Walking around town last week, there were a ton of visitors, but also a great number of locals, apparently exercising that “buy local” ethos. The point is this: these local businesses are your friends and neighbors.
Support them. For additional info go to: www.bschool.com/blog/2010/12-reasons-to-shop-local/

Monday, December 13, 2010

Shop local: keep dollars at home, not in Third World

Bluffton Today

I got a lot of good feedback on last week’s column, especially concerning the “shop local” part. When you shop with a local merchant, your dollars stay home and circulate in the community, lifting a lot of local boats. When you shop at the chain stores and the big box places, those dollars end up leaving almost immediately, usually coming to rest in China, Indonesia, Taiwan or South Korea.

It makes sense to keep our dollars home as much as we can. I’m also working to repatriate even more of our dollars that left here for Columbia, but that’s another story. Speaking of local value, we have a couple of excellent institutions of higher learning in the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry.

I was recently a visitor at TCL, in the government class of my friend Bob Dixon. Bob is a brilliant fellow who is a semi-retired professor, teaching government and history at TCL. While his students are preparing for success in their work lives, he is helping make sure they have the context and information to be successful in their citizenship obligations as well. If the quality of their questions is any indication, he is doing a great job of preparing his students for what lies ahead.

We are fortunate to have these two post-secondary institutions in our neighborhood. Not only do local folks have the opportunity to continue their education without leaving home, they also have a choice between two excellent, cost-effective alternatives. One is slanted toward academics while the other is more focused on job training and work skills. What they have in common is they provide an entire spectrum of education and training opportunity for young people, and not-so-young people, to get what they need to be successful contributors in our local economic and civic life.

Also of local interest, I have been working with the S.C. Department of Commerce and the Governor’s Office in pursuing dollars from the Renaissance Community Development Block Grant Program.

I am pleased to announce that the Town of Bluffton will receive a Village Renaissance Grant of $500,000. These funds are targeted at the Buck Island/Simmonsville Road area of Bluffton and will be used for sidewalks, drainage, water and sewer. As of this writing, I have instructed the Department of Commerce and the grants administration to forward the grant agreement to the Town of Bluffton for execution.

The importance of this is two-fold: the infrastructure improvements will likely make this area much more attractive for business development and job creation. Secondly, the drainage and sewer improvements should take some runoff pressure off our waterways, further enhancing our quality of life and recreation opportunities. Also, there are a lot of good people living in this community that have been waiting patiently for these basic improvements to their neighborhood.

These Community Development grants are one of the ways we return your tax dollars back to you. We are working hard to repatriate many more of these dollars, especially education dollars, back to Beaufort County as we prepare for the upcoming session.

I am optimistic, especially with the new configuration of the delegation, that we can build on our successes and ultimately reach parity in education and infrastructure funding with the rest of the state.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blufftonians help each other get by

Bluffton Today

While I’m continuing to craft our legislative agenda for the upcoming session, today’s is going to be a little different than my usual column. Every once in a while, we need to look around our community and recognize some of the things that make Bluffton special and especially endearing, as well as some of the good people who have recently joined us and are making a positive contribution. I also want to recognize a recently departed friend.

If you haven’t met Josh and Gabby at Cork’s Wine Bar in the Promenade, you should make an effort to stop by. The atmosphere is nice and the food and drink are exceptional. Josh and Gabby have also become involved members of the business community, hosting the most recent meeting of the Bluffton Old Town Merchant’s Society.

They have been instrumental in helping the May River Theater get past a small recession-related rough spot by hosting fundraisers and events for that iconic cultural institution. As you know, Bluffton folks like to have a good time while they take care of each other. Josh and Gabby and Cork’s have done more than their share to help that along.

For the Christmas season, the good folks at Cork’s are also organizing a coat drive for our neighbors who are not well equipped for the Bluffton winter. This recent cold snap should be a reminder that if you have a coat or two that you haven’t worn in a while, drop them by Cork’s. You might even want to consider purchasing and contributing a new coat. Someone would certainly appreciate it.

Mary and I are dedicated practitioners of the “Shop Local” ethos. In preparation for our holiday decoration, Mary went to the Garden Gate to purchase our tree and wreath from proprietor Margie Fox. Not only is the Garden Gate a beautiful shop, Margie is a local treasure. Aside from being a generous source of garden knowledge, she is also an enthusiastic promoter of Bluffton. Margie is also a dependable mainstay of the Bluffton Old Town Merchant’s Society and a shiny flowerpot full of positive energy. Go by her place on the east side of the Promenade; she will make your day.

I also had the honor and privilege of dedicating the bridge over Heyward Cove to my good friend, the late Councilman Tommy Heyward. I want to thank Joanie Heyward and the entire Heyward clan for not only sharing Tommy with us, but the dedication as well. We thank Father Owens for his good words, along with the many Blufftonians that came to remember our one-of-a-kind Tommy. It is appropriate that we dedicate a bridge to Tommy Heyward, as he was truly a bridge between the old Bluffton and the new Bluffton.

The community spirit of the bridge dedication carried over to the tree lightings at Town Hall, the Promenade and Buckwalter Place. These fine events were followed the next day by the latest, and arguably the best iteration of the Bluffton Christmas Parade. If there is one event that seems to capture the essence of our little town, it is the Christmas parade. From the old days of Mayor George Heyward (in Buzzard costume) riding atop the town garbage truck, to the ladies’ drill teams, to the precision of military bands — the parade seems to capture it all. This place will change you. Must be something in the water.

Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, represents District 118 in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He can be reached through his Web site at www.herbkersman. com or by telephone at 757-7900.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Delegation to meet Tuesday on Hilton Head

Bluffton Today

It was a shortened week in the office, but amazingly enough we are still right at record level of constituent contacts. Kathy and I came in on Friday to try and catch up but if we don’t get back to you immediately, please cut us some holiday slack.

Also, I want to remind you of the Legislative Delegation meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the council chambers of Hilton Head Island Town Hall. We had a little mix up in last week’s column that directed you to the Chamber of Commerce Complex. Although the Chambers of Commerce of both Hilton Head Island and Beaufort will certainly be in attendance, the meeting will be at Town Hall. This is part of our policy of rotating the delegation meetings around the district so that attendees will not always be geographically inconvenienced. It should be a good meeting and I hope to see a number of you there.

We have had more than a few deep talks in the past week regarding the budget, especially after Dr. Gillespie’s sobering presentation to the Ways and Means Committee on behalf of the Budget and Control Board. It’s going to be another tough year, essentially as many of the downward trends in revenue and employment, while currently stabilizing, are still below what we require for either a balanced budget or full employment.

As far as revenue is concerned, we are seeing the slightest upturn in the numbers, although I would not call it a trend just yet. Unlike the federal budget, we don’t get to run a deficit and simply print more money. There is, however, a certain elasticity in our budget process that allows us to run a sort of de facto deficit by utilizing a number of trust funds and rainy day accounts to keep funding core functions of the state. Unfortunately, we have pretty much used up that elasticity and need to start making whole those trust funds and accounts. Consequently, even after we start to show real revenue growth, we will still likely be cutting areas of the budget.

The job situation is more complex. The first of this year we stopped losing jobs, but have not established much momentum in gaining new jobs. In June of 2007, we peaked at 1,970,000 jobs, and bottomed in January 2010 at around 1,783,000 jobs, a loss of around 187,000 jobs. That’s nearly 1 in 10 jobs lost in a state with higher-than-average unemployment in the best of times.

I guess this takes us back to my near obsession with jobs. You hear it from me over and over. Sound education — rational tax and regulatory policy — and transportation, utility and information infrastructure are all required to create and support good jobs, recession or no recession. That’s how I see our primary function in Columbia.

The holiday, by all accounts from around the community, was superb. Grown children and grandchildren came for family Thanksgiving. Turkeys with Bluffton oyster dressing were prepared and gratefully eaten, often to excess. Naps were taken and football was watched. These ceremonies were all undertaken with gratitude. My personal thanksgiving, however, is today, the Nov. 29. This is the day, 24 years ago; that my lovely Mary and I began our married life together. Inexplicably, each year is better than the last.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Area may get a fair share of road money

Bluffton Today

I spent a good deal of time in Columbia last week getting things situated for our “mini-session.” There were a few agenda items but mostly it was committee assignments and some housekeeping matters.

Your representative was returned to Ways and Means, which was no surprise. We were pleased that our new colleague, Andy Patrick, from Hilton Head Island, was able to skip ahead a few paces and be placed on the Education Committee, which is a boost to this area.

Andy was able to secure this key assignment because he is an impressive fellow and has been introduced to a number of members who look forward to working with him. Just as former Rep. Joanne Gilham was able to smooth my way into leadership, your representative and other delegation members have been diligent in seeing that Andy will hit the ground running.

Andy and I have shared a pretty fair amount of travel time recently, with a lot of opportunity to exchange ideas on any number of legislative matters. On education, we are in perfect agreement that public education is not only a crucial family matter, but also an extremely important feature of economic development. Just as we invest in ports and roads, we need to invest in improving our state’s educational outcomes at all levels. Since Andy has a house full of young children, I’m pretty sure he will view his committee responsibilities with a fatherly seriousness.

We heard a budget forecast from Dr. Gillespie of the Budget and Control Board, which was predictably grim. The recession still has large portions of the state in a firm grip and we should tailor our expectations accordingly. The one relatively bright spot in his presentation had to do with tourism, particularly along the coast. In fact, we are pretty much holding the rest of the state above water, so to speak. This has potentially profound implications for how we allocate our increasingly scarce resources.

Let me explain: Historically, our state has invested transportation dollars according to population, as opposed to usage. Consequently, the more populous parts of the state have newer and less crowded roads than we have in the more visitor-intensive areas.

That’s just the way it was. As tourism is increasing seen as our primary engine of solvency, it makes sense to invest in what is working. This is something the Coastal Caucus and your delegation have been working on for years with little to show. This may be about to change.

Finally we had an excellent report from the director of our Education Lottery, my friend Paula Harper Bethea. Not only is our lottery doing very well compared to other state lotteries, we are spending much less than our competitors on advertising and administration. While the parallels with other agencies are not perfect, there is merit in seeing how administration costs can be reduced while productivity is maximized.

If there are things that Paula is doing with the lottery that could provide models for other agencies, we certainly need to take a close look. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes it takes a series of austere budgets for us to see clearly what the true cost of government is. Don’t forget, we have a Beaufort County Legislative Delegation meeting Nov. 30 at the Chamber of Commerce complex on Hilton Head Island.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Special thanks to those who help make column successful

Bluffton Today

The number of constituent contacts seems to rise each week and this week was no exception. Much of the increase, in my view, is attributable to the fact that I am able to reach out to you on a weekly basis with this column. Every Monday, you hear from me, and the rest of the week, I hear from you. I try to explain the issues we are facing, and you let me know, usually in no uncertain terms, what needs to be done. For a lot of years, we’ve made a pretty good team.

The production of this column, usually around 600 words, is a serious and complex undertaking that involves several drafts and the good efforts of a lot of folks. Once a year, I try to produce a column that recognizes the work of those folks, and also tries to express my appreciation for their contributions. This is that column.

As always, my first and highest expression of gratitude is to my wife and life partner, Mary. Her support and encouragement is the foundation of any success, political or otherwise, that I might have achieved. I get a lot of credit that rightfully should go to her, but most of you already know that.

The calls and contacts generated by the column are usually fielded by my office manager, Kathy. She accurately and politely directs you to the appropriate government offices that will take care of your problem, unless we can handle it in house. She sees that documents left for me are placed in my hand, as well as makes sure that I don’t procrastinate in addressing any action they might require. She is hardworking and efficient, and somehow always manages to be pleasant about it.

I also want to thank my friends at the Legislative Audit and Legislative Research offices. They help make the information you read in the column as up-to-date and accurate as possible. They also research legislation in other states that may help me in crafting my bills or commenting on other bills.

The first draft of each column is dictated to Word Processing at the State House. Vivian and all her colleagues do a great job of transcribing and distributing my words down the line. One of those people down the line is my friend, Jacob Preston, whose grammatical polish keeps things between the rhetorical ditches. And my pal, Ken George, among other things, makes certain each column is properly archived on the website.

I am also thankful that Bluffton Today has created a stable of writers and columnists that approach life in our little corner of the Lowcountry from so many different points of view. They host a lively and entertaining conversation in print each week. Most of the political and cultural spectrum is represented, and disagreement, with a few exceptions, is handled without resort to boorishness.

Finally, I want to thank you the readers for your attention and fair treatment. When I make a mistake, I hear about it. When I get it right, I also hear from you. When I ask for your help, I can always count on hearing the wisdom of a good cross section of the community. You help me be a better, more effective representative. Thank you.

Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, represents District 118 in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He can be reached through his Web site at www.herbkersman.com or by telephone at 757-7900 or at (803) 734-3063 at his office at 308-B Blatt Building in Columbia. He is assigned to the Ways and Means and the Rules committees.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Governing decisions are not always easy

Bluffton Today

Like most of you, I am relieved that the elections are mostly complete. I am also gratified that the general outcome has increased the number of elected officials that agree in the main with my political worldview.

By all indications, we are looking to have government at all levels that is trending toward making itself smaller, more nimble, and, at least theoretically, more responsive to the will of the people. As an experienced elected official, I am aware that there is often some discrepancy between the language and activity of campaigning and the often grindingly difficult activity of governing.

Being a good politician as well as a decent person is to realize that, unlike the campaign, decisions in governing are rarely as simple and as well defined as we would like. Sometimes, there are no good choices. Is it better in a devastated economy to cut mental health services or education? Ideology is no guide, so you just do the best you can and hope you did the right thing. The clarity of this campaign season is about to become the irreducible complexity of legislating the greater good.

One of my ways of dealing with the complexity is to return to our foundational documents to help sort through these things. For getting to the point in the fewest words, there is no better document than the Declaration of Independence. There is language in the Declaration that talks about governments “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That consent was not given in the 18th century so that it might remain in perpetuity. On the contrary, consent must be renewed and refreshed frequently and in response to the challenges of the day.

Last week, the governed refreshed their consent, as well as appointed the agents of their government. I am humbled and honored to again be your representative in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Besides a new governor and several new constitutional officers, the Beaufort County Delegation has a new member in Andy Patrick, representing District 123 on Hilton Head Island. He joins your representative, our Sen. Tom Davis, and Rep. Shannon Erickson in standing for the bulk of Beaufort County. Our delegation also includes Reps. Kenneth Hodges and Curtis Brantley, as well as Sen. Clementa Pinckney in representing a small but significant portion of Beaufort County.

By most metrics, this delegation is something of a dream team. We have the experience, the mental horsepower and the creativity to be a force in the General Assembly, especially as we combine with the Coastal Caucus. This is particularly important going into a session where our budgets are still challenged by recession and halting and uneven recovery. While there are pockets of job growth and business expansion, such as we have talked about in Bluffton, the region and the state as a whole are still languishing. The very uneven nature of the recovery will create immense difficulty in pulling together a coherent budget that will recognize the varying degrees of need.

In closing, I want to thank you for your continued support and confidence. Almost 450 of you either called or e-mailed last week. For this, I am grateful as well. You help me demonstrate why they call it the House of Representatives.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Old Town is still region’s economic bright spot.

Bluffton Today

Thanks for all the good calls last week regarding the “Going to the Dogs” oyster roast fundraiser. Keep it on your calendar. I am sure the Boeke’s and Brook’s Bed and Biscuit would appreciate all the help they can get. These are good folks that are doing good work for our animal companions and friends.

Speaking of good folks, there are a pair of wonderful schoolteachers who are opening a children’s bookstore in Bluffton. The store is called Booksalicious and it is unlike any business I have seen. It is located near Cork’s in the Promenade and will feature readings and story times and a host of events that will excite the young ones with the love of reading. Booksalicious should be opening as you read this and would be a great place to take your kids or grandchildren. It is also a testament to the strong local retail economy that an independent bookseller would choose this time and this place to open a store.

Last weekend, we had the 6th Annual Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival. It is put on by Bluffton Rotary and is always well run and a big hit with visitors and locals alike. All the reports I have heard were of great sales, not only for the exhibitors, but local merchants as well. It seems that Old Town Bluffton continues to be the economic bright spot of the region.

There is seemingly the perfect mixture of activity and laidbackness (maybe that’s a word), a solid arts community, great restaurants, and a presentable road infrastructure. There is even a rumor that appropriate signage is about to occur so that visitors can find their way around to all the areas surrounding Calhoun Street and the businesses located there.

Even as the recent election campaigns have raged on, I have been preparing for the next session. One of the things I am working on is my Red Tape Reduction Initiative. This is a project that I have been pushing for nearly 10 years. Each year, we get something through the House that somehow founders in the Senate. It’s frustrating, but much of what I hear from you in business is how you are being red taped to death by the various levels of government.

This year, with pro-business Senators Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and Clementa Pinckney (D-Jasper County), I believe we will pass meaningful legislation that will offer some relief to businesses from the more egregious forms of red tape. Well, tomorrow is election day.

I know many of you have already voted and that’s great. However, recent elections have been marked by disappointing turnout, especially among young folks and those somewhat new to the area, excluding Sun City. Make sure you check the papers for where your precinct votes. I know there has been some confusion in the past on this, but it’s better now.

Seriously, I want to urge you to get out and exercise your right to vote. If you are not interested in voting, then don’t complain that government doesn’t pay attention to you. In truth, it is you who is not paying attention to government, and that rarely leads to good outcomes. What usually leads to good outcomes is an educated, informed, and participatory electorate. Voting is the most basic and important form of participation. See you at the polls.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Keep those cards and letters coming

Bluffton Today

After something of a relative lull in our constituent contacts, last week’s total was 472. What this means is that our average for the last six months or so has risen from around 350 to well over 450 calls and e-mails. The bulk of this communication is vital to my preparing and executing a proper legislative agenda for District 118, Beaufort County and South Carolina. I appreciate it and I am grateful for your support and confidence.

Unfortunately, with the dramatic increase in our constituent contacts, it is difficult for me to chat about the ups and downs of the upcoming election. As much as I love to talk politics, right now I simply must attend to the people’s business. The New Year and the new session is right around the corner and historically speaking, the delegation that prepares the most effectively is the most successful in representing the interests of their constituents.

If you want to know my favorites in the election, you just have to look at the Beaufort County Delegation to see examples of whom I support. That candidate is a small-government fiscal conservative, who is pro-business, pro-education, and proenvironment, with a passion for using the tools of government to create the economic climate where job creation is a necessary consequence of a growing, prosperous community. Each member of your delegation, including presumptive Dist. 123 Rep. Andy Patrick, fits that bill. The second Tuesday of the New Year will likely find many more folks in the General Assembly who look like your delegation.

Speaking of the presumptive Dist. 123 representative, I had the opportunity last week to ride to Columbia and back with Andy Patrick. We had five hours drive time and used the time to strategize on things that need to happen for the benefit of this end of the state and particularly Beaufort County. Andy and I are in near perfect agreement on the need to keep open communication with Congressman Joe Wilson’s office, as well as the various mayors and their councils, and the county councils and their leadership. Most importantly, we need to keep open the lines of communication with you, the voter-taxpayer-resident. Andy is a superb addition to the team.

I want you to mark your calendar for 5 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 20. There is an oyster roast to benefit Brooke Haven Animal Rescue at the home of my neighbors, Dick and Lynn Boeke at 159 Gascoigne Bluff Road in Gascoigne Bluff, just down Highway 46 from old town Bluffton. Tickets are $50 and the event will include a raffle and live music, not to mention Bluffton oysters and a fabulous spread. Brook Haven is celebrating 10 years of animal rescue and is located at Brook’s Bed and Biscuit, near my good friend and fair-priced vet, Ben Parker, in Westbury Park off Buck Island Road.

Brooke Fisher, Karen Bresseler and Dalia Lowler founded Brook Haven Animal Rescue in 2009 and have fostered and adopted many, many dogs and cats over the years. They are a 501(c)(3) charity, so your contributions are tax deductible. Make your check out to Brook’s Haven. I know you all enjoyed the Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival last week. I’ll have a few more comments on this excellent event next week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Economic prospects are looking better

Bluffton Today

We did have quite a few contacts this week, down a bit from last week. I attribute the falloff to the fact that most folks now understand that school issues are handled by the school board and not your state representative. I am fully engaged in education business but more from a funding and coordination standpoint.

We continue to meet with the Lowcountry Economic Network and executive director Kim Statler. Our immediate economic prospects in the Lowcountry are rising, especially when we look at help wanted ads in this paper and others in the neighborhood. My interviews around Greater Bluffton with business people generally confirm an upward trend in employment. I know this is cold comfort to those of you without jobs. My message to you is that we are looking up economically and to not become discouraged. We were the last to feel the impact of the great recession and we are among the first to see the beginnings of renewed prosperity.

One of the potential solutions to our employment situation may be found in a new business just opened in Old Town Bluffton. It is called the Bluffton Business Club and is the idea of Shelley Hodges and the West family, locals all. It is a non-profit outfit that allows new and incubating businesses to start off many of their office functions at a very low cost. They are located off Goethe Rd. in a new building close to the Calhoun Street Promenade. Stop in for a cup of coffee and have a chat with these bright young folks. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

A number of you called this week in some distress over the fact that Hardeeville is continuing to annex land in Beaufort County. There is reason to be concerned, especially given the informative and to-the-point op-ed recently released by Hardeeville Mayor Bostick. This is the very outcome I was trying to avoid as we negotiated the Sembler matter. The Hardeeville and Jasper County folks are simply desperate for jobs and they are going to do whatever it takes, wise or unwise, to produce some level of employment. My effort was to recognize their concerns, as well as give Beaufort County some role in their process. The unfortunate outcome is they feel, with some justification, that we are burdening them with our environmental standards while blocking their job creation efforts. Their response is to annex more businesses away from Beaufort County. This is obviously not a preferred outcome.

My annexation reform package continues to make the rounds from Coastal Conservation League, to the various counties and municipalities. It will be prefiled after the reviews are in. The answer to our common problems is not further abuse of the annexation statutes, but true intergovernmental cooperation based on a modicum of mutual respect. This was the intent of the Priority Investment Act. Unfortunately, with no enforcement power, the PIA is something of a courtesy rather than a mandate.

Finally, one of the themes of the campaign season is transparency. While there has never been any suggestion that my legislative finances are questionable, I will post all my income and expenditures that are derived from taxpayer dollars on my web site in the near future. I doubt that such disclosure will become law any time soon, but I would prefer to be open in all matters involving the people’s money.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Education important to job Development

Bluffton Today
Our mail registered a significant uptick the last three weeks as I passed along some of the things we have been doing on the jobs front here in South Carolina, with an emphasis on the Lowcountry. As always, I commend Kim Statler and her crew at the Lowcountry Economic Network for all the great things they are pursuing.

I also need to thank Anna Cauthen and Matt Green for the invitation to Coffee Talk last week. We had around 25 young businesspeople at the Downtown Deli for a fun, productive event. It is always a pleasant surprise when I get to see and hear from the intelligent and creative folks in our up-and-coming business community. The very fact that they are working so hard sometimes means that we don’t get to hear from them as much as we ideally should. There is no age limit on good ideas.

Continuing somewhat indirectly in the jobs vein that I have followed for the last three weeks, I need to reference last week’s column in Bluffton Today by State Education Superintendent Jim Rex. In the piece, Mr. Rex gave us an overview of his recommendations to Gov. Sanford for the 2011-12 budget. He correctly pointed out that our teachers have not had a cost of living raise for three years, they also have 3000 to 4000 fewer colleagues sharing their work load, and are looking at something like 78,000 mandatory furlough days in the next year which amounts to a $20 million pay cut. They have significantly more students per teacher, and are using increasingly outdated textbooks and software.

Furthermore, Mr. Rex will recommend $40 million to help revamp our oldest-in-the-country school bus system. This is not only about the safety of our children, it is about the disruption that late or broken down buses cause in the school day, not to mention parental anxiety.

What I didn’t hear from Mr. Rex was how many administrators have lost their jobs or been given mandatory furloughs. In my time in Columbia, I have seen the Dept of Education grow tremendously with various specialists of one sort or another. The implication is that administrators somehow make the front-line teachers more effective or more efficient. If that were truly the case, the proliferation of administrators would certainly be reflected in dramatic improvement in our national rankings or test scores.

My thinking on this is we need to pay our teachers a respectable, predictable wage. They are worth it. You have heard me say many times that school funding priorities should focus in the classroom and decrease as we move further up the ladder. If my thinking on this is wrong, tell me why.

If we are going to have public school buses, let’s not have the oldest, most worn out units in the country. This, in my view, is a false economy. If there is a better way to handle school transportation, let’s hear it.

When I am in talks with companies about locating in South Carolina, I always like to talk about our tax structure, our right-to-work laws, good climate, and improving port system. What I least like to talk about is education. Unfortunately, business folks that are looking to ask employees to relocate to our state are more than a little interested in our school systems. When I have to say some school systems are excellent and some are not, my sales pitch tends to lose momentum.

Friends, one way or another, we are going to have to deal with this issue. I am open for ideas. Let me hear from you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Economic development creates spinoff effect

Bluffton Today

I’d like to conclude my comments
begun several weeks ago on the Coastal
Caucus meetings in Myrtle Beach. There
is little doubt that bringing Boeing to the
Charleston area was the culmination of
years of serious preparation and conversation
among ahost of parties, both
inside and outside government.

The economic benefits of the plant
are impressive, but for me the spinoff
affect is where much of the enduring
gains will be found. The fact is that 91
percent of the components of the airliners
assembled in Charleston are from
South Carolina firms.

Some of these businesses were already here and
tooled up for Boeing, while many others
located here, bought property, built buildings
and hired local folks to work for them.

The skills and the capacities involved in
these Boeing-related suppliers are now the basis
for attracting other manufacturers to our area.

The new businesses need facilities,
vehicles, consulting services, computers,
office furniture and a whole gamut
of goods and services that will further
stimulate our economy.

The intangibles that come from this
general feeling of renewed prosperity
are also certainly a factor in our
conversations with potential additions
to the business community. Success
begets success. This is why your representative
invests so much time and
energy working with Kim Statler and
the Lowcountry Economic Network.

Each time we bring a CareCore to
Bluffton, or a Boeing to Charleston, or
even a BMW to the Upstate, we expand
our foundation to support further
successes.

As chairman of the Economic Development
Subcommittee of Ways and Means, these are
stories I enjoy sharing second look at South Carolina.

As we look further downstream to
the Jasper Port and all the potential
spinoff that will entail, we can begin
to see the outline of a more balanced,
less visitor-based economy.

While tourism is certainly a productive
economic engine, having all our
eggs in that fragile basket sometimes
keeps me up nights. Witness the recent
disaster visited upon our friends along
the Gulf Coast.

Even over the holiday, I heard from
many of you — almost 300 of you, in
fact. While I will never take for granted
the excellent level of communication I
have with you, it is particularly important
at this time.

I am working with Chairman
Weston Newton and County Council,
along with the municipalities, in putting
together our legislative agenda for
the next session of the General Assembly.

We are discussing, along with
County Councilman Jerry Stewart,
what needs to be done to keep S.C. 170
safely passable until it is widened. We
are looking at the transportation issues
on Daufuskie Island.

This place is such a gem and could
be enjoyed by many more folks if getting
to and from the island was not so
problematic. I am also hearing from
many of you about the current limitations
on golf cart travel. That measure
will be reintroduced on the first day of
session.

Finally, let’s take afew moments at
the end of summer, before all the festivals
and holidays that come along with
the cooler weather of Fall, to simply
take stock of all the good things that
are happening, especially in Bluffton.

By most reports, business in the
shops, galleries and restaurants of old
town is booming. We survived the road
construction and traffic is certainly
manageable for the time being.

Now might be a perfect time to
adopt that attitude of gratitude that
seems to deepen our appreciation
of the good times as well as fortify us.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Business climate key for Boeing

Bluffton Today

I want to continue with my comments, begun in last week’s column, on the Coastal Caucus meeting in Myrtle Beach. In addition to the discussion of the “retreat” policy and the nexus between our natural resources and tourism, the Coastal Caucus meeting also included agenda items concerning jobs, education funding and my red-tape-reduction initiative.

The jobs feature was particularly informative and effective as we had a number of Boeing executives in attendance. Since I knew a fair number of the aircraft folks from our time negotiating the agreement to bring the new manufacturing facility to the Charleston area, I had hours of social time/informal meetings with a number of these good people. My being a licensed pilot didn’t hurt either. What I really wanted to know was what was it that turned the tide in our favor relative to our competitors in getting this airliner assembly complex in our state.

In the dozen or so conversations I had with various Boeing leaders, there were a number of themes that seemed to predominate. First, we welcomed them. We made it clear that we wanted to do business with them for the long term and were serious about creating a mutually beneficial working relationship.

Second, we demonstrated our seriousness by creating an incentive package that spoke to their needs without giving away the farm.

And third, we are a right-to-work state. This was important to them in light of some of their recent labor problems. As a legislator interested in quality jobs finding their way to our state and our area, the feedback was absolutely invaluable. Interestingly, a good part of my red-tape-reduction initiative came out of conversations, not only with Boeing executives, but also with other business people interested in relocating here. For a lot of folks, being excused from a load of bureaucratic complexity is all the incentive they need to look closely at South Carolina. Another extremely productive agenda item in Myrtle Beach was finally addressing school funding inequity.

I will be a primary sponsor of an initiative, along with many sponsoring members of both the Coastal and Republican Caucuses, to rationalize how the dollars from the 71 pots of education money in Columbia find its way to the classroom to meet the needs of individual students in our system. The various pots will be consolidated and the dollars will follow the student through the system. There will be additions.

l weighting for poverty in this formula, which is appropriate. A new feature will be that there will also be weighting for gifted and talented students as well. Ideally, the remediation needs of some students will no longer eliminate the resources for the cultivation of the faster advancing students. More on this as it comes forward.

Continuing in education, I met Mick Zais, former president of Newberry College, who is running for state superintendent of education. I have followed his work at Newberry, and it is pretty impressive. It is almost like a quieter, less flamboyant version of Lee Iacocca and Chrysler. Mick Zais has a military background and some interesting ideas how we might transform our education system.

Maybe I was impressed with him because we share some of those same ideas. We also share a sense of urgency in raising that particular bar.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Coastline retreat vital to economy

Bluffton Today

A couple of weeks ago, I referenced a report commissioned by the state that had to do with the future of coastal South Carolina. The report was a reprise of an earlier manifesto that was a grand master plan to retreat from the ocean’s edge.

In the intervening decades, the “retreat” policy is in shambles — a result of court rulings, development patterns that depend on subsidized flood insurance, and regulatory factors that avoided political battles. The recent report is a testament to the fact that ignoring problems does not make them go away.

Most of my time last week was spent in Myrtle Beach in consultation with members of the Coastal Caucus and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

We wrestled with many of the issues that are going to need solution in the very near term. Some of these matters have to do with where the setback lines need to be drawn, and by extension, what are the reasonable, rational and enforceable criteria for drawing those lines. A number of our neighbors from Fripp Island all the way to South Beach in Sea Pines have more than a passing interest in what eventually is decided.

The other major topic of consideration was tourism, particularly coastal tourism. Most observers think that we received a bump in visitor numbers from the distress in the Gulf. The stats are not in yet but the educated speculation seems to indicate we benefited to a measurable degree from the oilrig disaster. How do we protect ourselves from environmental degradation that would place us next year, or the year after, in the position of our friends along the northern Gulf of Mexico?

In Beaufort County, we are also facing the very real possibility that the Heritage golf tournament could disappear, along with tens of millions of dollars in potential business activity, millions of dollars in state and local revenues, and even millions of dollars in charitable contributions.

In my view, the loss of a flagship tourism generator like the Heritage is certainly not a tragedy of the magnitude of the Gulf oil spill, but the economic consequences for our area could be very similar.

Throughout my business life, one of the guiding axioms of success has been this: Don’t let the struggle to attract new customers interfere with good service to your current patrons. Tourism is the economic lifeblood of the South Carolina economy. We cannot let that escape our constant attention. No matter how hard I try to attract new businesses to our state, I always know that what supports the bulk of our families is tourism. It just so happens that “clean and green” also makes us more attractive to a large spectrum of companies looking to relocate.

In this time of retrenchment when there are some folks who want to redefine the core functions of state government to maintaining “minimally adequate” education and passable roads, I believe we need to take a longer view. My conversations this last week were heartening in the sense that most of the members understand that we are in a temporary fiscal bind, but the key is to plan for a sound recovery by cutting judiciously, with an eye toward increased efficiency and productivity.

We may ultimately have some success at having development retreat from the ocean, especially in recognition of the massive cost associated with sustaining the unsustainable. We cannot, in my view, retreat from our responsibility to protect and preserve those natural features that support both our economy and quality of life.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Coastal management issues pose dilemma

Bluffton Today

Many thanks to all who called in about last week’s column on the shellfish harvesting reclassification of the headwaters of our May River. Your concerns mirror my own on this extremely important issue. I was more than a little dumbfounded by the fact that this paper, as well as its competitor, did not deem the reclassification newsworthy as of this writing (Friday evening.) Perhaps this is merely a reflection of the fact that August is often vacation time and all the reporters were out of town. Ideally, the weekend editions will see this oversight corrected.

The local job situation was front and center at the recent Lowcountry Regional Jobs Summit, held at the University of South Carolina Hilton Head Gateway Campus. My friend Paula Harper Bethea moderated this excellent event. The first day was pretty much a definition of the problem, while the second involved a batch of potential ways we can build and diversify our economy. Many thanks to Paula for a great effort, and to the Coalition for Jobs for putting this event together.

One of the things driving the extraordinary number of calls to my office has to do with a recently released study commissioned by the state that looked at the future of coastal South Carolina. There are some issues articulated in the study that, as always, have to do with the delicate balance between the needs of coastal management and property rights. There are thorny issues all the way from Fripp Island to South Beach on Hilton Head Island, such as setbacks from the critical line and what are the proper criteria for drawing the critical line. There are also matters relating to inland waters, such as the May and Okatie Rivers that will need to be hashed out.

These are matters of great interest to me, as well as the Coastal Caucus, and will be the subject of hearings and workshops in the fall. For decades, the state has mandated a building retreat from the edge of the ocean. This is in recognition of the fact that barrier islands are part of a dynamic process that moves the beach in response to forces beyond our control. Twenty years ago the issue was often expressed as response to littoral currents and sand migration. Today, there are issues of rising sea levels and possible impacts of climate change. We cannot afford to armor the entire coastline to counter these forces. Neither can we simply ignore those that have legally built in areas that are not sustainable without some sort of renourishment or armoring to protect their homes and investments. How to work through these dilemmas will be one of the profound challenges of our generation. For the present time, please continue to call in, email, or write your thoughts on how these issues need to be approached. I can do a better job of representing all of us if I have a good feel for the spectrum of opinion on these difficult issues.

Finally, I want to congratulate Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton for his election to a leadership post on the South Carolina Association of Counties Board of Directors. Weston is one of the hardest working elected officials I know, and the list of his accomplishments is long and distinguished. It is time he and they are recognized.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Closed oyster beds a wake-up call

Bluffton Today

This morning as you sip your coffee and read your favorite paper, there are meetings in progress that have to do with the health of our precious May River.

My friends Larry and Tina Toomer, owners and operators of the Bluffton Oyster Company, are meeting with environmental sanitation staff from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The 950-plus acres of headwaters of the May River are being closed to oyster harvesting for the 2010-11 season because of unacceptable fecal coliform levels. This area was classified as conditional last year, but increasing pollution has made that classification unsupportable going forward.


Later today, DHEC staffers will also meet with Kim Jones and other town of Bluffton officials, as well as Dan Ahern of the Beaufort County Stormwater Utility.

The explanation that I have been given for this reclassification has to do with “cumulative impacts” that make the headwaters fecal coliform readings too high even when there is not a rain event that might stir up the pollution from the bottom.

While this is not good news, it must be said that the sampling will continue and there is a possibility that the three-year rolling average that necessitated this reclassification is reversible if we can get a grip on the cumulative impacts that are diminishing our river. I want to say unequivocally that Larry and Tina’s oysters from the Bluffton Oyster Company are still the best in the country.


They are harvested from waters well removed from the reclassified areas and will remain available and of excellent quality for the foreseeable future. My office will continue to serve as a catalyst for interaction and communication between the town, county and state jurisdictions.


This water quality issue is not a problem without a solution.


On the contrary, all the jurisdictions are modifying their particular regulatory regimes in light of newer science that strongly suggests that naturally occurring organisms such a fecals are controlled fairly effectively by the salinity of an estuarine system.


Unfortunately, as we build more roads and houses and shopping centers with more impervious surfaces, the water that should filter into the earth is running off into the creeks and rivers, making them less salty and less able to naturally clean themselves.


My personal understanding of this matter is the reason that my last project, the Promenade in Old Town Bluffton, retains all its stormwater on the property, stored underground in large perforated pipes until it seeps into the ground. I believe that eventually, we will have to take our regulation, especially in the Lowcountry, in that direction. In the meantime, let this reclassification serve as a wake-up call for our community.


We must reduce or mitigate impervious surfaces wherever possible.

The rain that flows off your roof or driveway does not just disappear without impact. It is one of those “cumulative impacts” mentioned above. Kim Jones, natural resources planner for the town of Bluffton, has gotten a grant to support conservation projects in our area.


One of those projects that we can all consider is installing rain barrels and rain gardens to infiltrate water back into the earth.


Go by and see Paige Camp’s compound on Calhoun Street. She has several rain barrels integrated into her landscaping. It’s beautiful. Our potter, Jacob Preston, is renovating his home and studio on Church Street with at least 1,200 gallons of rainwater storage capacity and a plan to flush the toilets in his house and studio from that supply as well as support raised-bed gardens.


You will hear more from me on this crucial issue as we get into the fall.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lawmakers assess financial reality

Bluffton Today

The state of South Carolina was fortunate to host the Southeast Legislative Conference in Charleston last week. We had a good showing of legislators from around the region trying to glean some new ideas on how to make dollars go further and make taxation more equitable and less onerous for both taxpayers and collectors.

Having been to a number of these events over the years, I was a little surprised at how much distress there is out there. I know we have had a couple of bad years in which we have essentially had to cut far beyond the fat in our budget. Apparently, some of our neighbors are in worse shape than we are. This is, of course, small comfort, as we look at some of our financial realities in the near term. I believe we are on the upswing economically, but there is a significant lag before that is reflected in ameaningful gain in revenue.

The conference was agreat time to network with our-of-state colleagues but also a good time to introduce presumptive Hilton Head legislator Andy Patrick to his potential new friends around the state. Andy is a quick study and I look forward to having him join our delegation. We have the personnel and the skill-sets to have the most effective delegation in the state. I’m really looking forward to getting back up to Columbia after the first of the year.

Tomorrow and Wednesday the Coalition for Jobs is hosting the Lowcountry Jobs Summit at the University of South Carolina- Hilton Head Gateway Campus. This summit is the beginning of a conversation on how the economy is impacting the residents of our area and how local governments can become more business friendly and encourage more job growth. This conversation will very likely have some similarities with weekly talks held between your state representative and Beaufort County Councilman Jerry Stewart.

While we in Beaufort County have been spared much of the absolute worst of the recession, we have been profoundly diminished nonetheless. Unlike some parts of our state, Beaufort County has powerful economic development tools that need to be deployed with new commitment. One of those tools is the Lowcountry Economic Network, a group of forward-looking business and government leaders charged with bringing good jobs and clean industry to the Lowcountry area.

As these things sometimes work out, my friend Jerry Stewart was recently elected the chairman of the board of the Lowcountry Economic Network. Great expectations are appropriate.

Sen. Tom Davis and I had the pleasure of sharing the dais for the monthly meeting of the Greater Island Committee over on Hilton Head Island. There was a lot of material to cover as the next session will be important for many reasons, not the least of which will be a new governor and several new faces in the General Assembly. The presentations were well received and I got to see and chat with a lot of old friends. And the Greater Island Committee membership knows a little more about the working of the state than they did before the meeting.

In the office, we are maintaining a high level of constituent contacts —almost 400 last week. I’m trying to balance the higher levels of contact with staff vacations. Consequently, for the next couple of weeks, please be patient if you call and don’t get an immediate response. I have the best staff around and need to take care of them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

State’s business climate improving

Bluffton Today

The response to the last couple of columns has been tremendous. We are running something like 75 constituent contacts above the weekly average of 350-plus calls, letters or e-mails. Many of these calls included good ideas and productive suggestions from you on matters that make adifference to all of us.

This is in stark contrast to what I am hearing from many of my colleagues in the General Assembly, in that when many of them get feedback from constituents, it is mainly complaints. It makes a tremendous difference in my effectiveness that I have weekly input that is largely productive and adds to the body of ideas in play, and not simply negativity or expressions of frustration. For this, I thank you.

I am in e-mail contact with my pal, Jeff Fulghum, as he makes his way to Afghanistan for another deployment. We recently learned that a Bluffton homeboy, Garratt Boggs, has been wounded in Afghanistan and is currently recuperating at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Garratt grew up on Myrtle Island, graduating Hilton Head High in 1986, and USC Columbia in 1991. Our thoughts and prayers are with Specialist Boggs. We are again reminded that the cost of freedom is always high.

On June 23 of this year, Gov. Mark Sanford signed the Economic Development Competitiveness Act and the business climate in our state immediately became significantly better. The legislation provides, among other things, that a corporation establishing a national headquarters in our state, adding at least 50 new employees performing corporate headquarters related functions, will be exempt from state corporate income tax for 10 years. CareCore, in Bluffton, is an immediate beneficiary of this far-reaching program.

The legislation also revises provisions for fee in lieu of property tax agreements that have been on the wish list of the Lowcountry Economic Roundtable for some time. This one provision that will likely make the difference in several pending negotiations for local business relocations. There is also an incentive program for smaller businesses that want to expand in our area.

The legislation also expands incentives for “life science facilities” as well as companies that want to manufacture solar energy technology, wind turbines, advanced ion or other battery technology for alternative motor vehicles. This is done through the S.C. Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, a flexible and forward-looking entity that should go along way toward making our state a player in new, cutting edge industries.

The idea here is to pull in the high-tech industry, which is generally higher paying and more stable than much of our more traditional tourism and retirement-related job base. This is not to say we are moving away from hospitality and tourism as economic drivers, we simply need to diversify and deepen our economy. With proper incentives and management, the newer industries, being more environmentally sensitive, should serve to create local jobs as more companies move south to enjoy our good weather and great natural amenities.

What we are attempting to do with the Economic Development Competitiveness Act is to create an attractive business climate through tax incentives and thoughtful, enlightened regulation, that will build upon our educated workforce, transportation infrastructure, and great cultural and natural resources to encourage clean, forward looking businesses to take agood look at South Carolina.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Off season a chance to cut future deals

Bluffton Today

The session is long over and we are, legislatively speaking, on vacation. This may be so for the rank and file, but for the leadership, including your representative, we are hard at it. Even though some of the details of this year’s budget are not yet finalized, we are already getting things rolling for next year.

To that end, Ihave met with the chairman of Ways and Means, as well as most of the other chairmen, trying to get good visibility on our financial priorities for the upcoming session.

This is also the time when I can make a little progress in building a foundation on which our delegation can support financial reforms that will reduce our donor status among the counties of our state. In fact, between sessions is the only time when we can operate without the day-to-day political pressure that has members interested mainly in appearing to protect the singular interests of their constituencies. During the off-season, there is more time to discuss the bigger picture and maybe strike a few bargains that will yield mutual benefits after the first of the year.

One of those areas of bigger picture consideration has to do with the revised and revived Sembler matter. The momentary defeat of the development incentives that the Jasper County leadership tried to put together to create jobs in the eastern portion of Hardeeville had the unfortunate effect of taking away the environmental, workforce and oversight features that might have made that project somewhat more palatable when it does eventually come on line. Some version of the Sembler project will be built, and it will be built and operated in a manner that satisfies the Jasper County standards, such as they are. Senator Pinckney and his crew are adamant they will create jobs for their folks one way or another.

I was a tad uncomfortable with all the ill-advised and unwarranted triumphalism that my friends at the Coastal Conservation League exhibited after the incentives measure was not passed in the closing hours of the last session. This whole notion of “we win, you lose” is particularly inappropriate when we are dealing with our next county over neighbors. After all, these are the folks that we will be working with for years to come on issues that are vital to both our counties, such as roads and port construction.

It is prudent to remember that all our rivers make up in Jasper County. All our roads pass through Jasper County before they reach us. We have regional concerns that will have to be tackled with mutual respect if we are to have any chance at success.

Obviously, I will continue to engage with my friends in the leadership of Jasper County. I will continue to push for enlightened, sustainable, and economically prudent environmental regulation. I will also continue to push for local and legal workers to build and staff any development in the area. I will also help our friends and colleagues understand that doing the right thing now is the productive thing for the long haul. What I will not do is demand that they do it our way or we will block their efforts. After all, our record in these matters is not without blemish.

Briefly, Many thanks to Marilyn Caperillian for her good work on the Beaufort County Election Commission. We made real progress on hard issues. Iknow that her replacement, Norma Stewart, will do an equally fine job.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Weather, hurricane season heating up

Bluffton Today

We have arrived at the hot part of summer in the Lowcountry. Maybe I have reached that age where one doesn’t seem to handle the heat as well as in the younger days. I don’t know. I do know that the river is calling me loud and clear these days and the appropriate response is to crank the boat and head for the sandbar with a cold watermelon and perhaps an adult beverage.

We were on the river last week and I happened to see my friend David Rosenblum and his wife Catherine, along with a boatload of children. David is home from Afghanistan for acouple of weeks and making the most of family time. If you see David or Catherine, please make certain you tell them how much we appreciate the sacrifices their family is making for all of us.

We are officially in hurricane season and I have been renewing all my contacts that will be vital if we find ourselves in a weather related emergency. To that end, I had a meeting last week with Congressman Joe Wilson and Butch Wallace about FEMA and what we might do to more closely link our planning with that of the feds. As we talked about the details of the Bluffton plan, Rep. Wilson assured me that he would be sure the federal government was ready and will do all they can.

There was also a great meeting with Tammy Malone and Frank Hodge from the town of Bluffton concerning possibly relocating town headquarters in the event of an emergency. They will not only want to make arrangements for their own people, but also those that might be here from FEMA and related agencies. Now is the time to get all the particulars ironed out so we aren’t making crucial decisions on the fly.

I have a meeting scheduled with Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton and his emergency management director, William Wynn. Director Wynn is an old hand at this sort of thing but we still want to go through the exercise nonetheless.

In a somewhat related matter, I had along talk with Wanda Crotwell and Earl Hunter, the director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, on a different kind of emergency response. They assured me that in the very unlikely event that oil from the Gulf of Mexico well blowout makes its way around the Florida peninsula and into the Gulf Stream, they have a solid plan to bring immense resources to bear in protecting our fragile coastline.

Of necessity, such a plan is short on detail and long on flexibility, as we can’t know how this thing might occur until it occurs. Right now, the odds that the resources will be activated are vanishingly small, but the necessity for planning is very real and very urgent.

At the risk of sounding like your mama and not your state representative, I want to urge each of you to make a household plan—just in case. Know where you will go, perhaps where you will meet family members. Think about prescription medications that might be needed, as well as how you will arrange for your pets. The last minute is not the time to be getting this all together.

Last year I reminded you of these very same things. Next year, there is a pretty good chance that I will do it again. Part of living in the Lowcountry is being smart about hurricanes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

He says ... Department of Workforce improves jobless system

Bluffton Today

Today I want to complete my remarks, begun last week in this space, on the reform of the Employment Security Commission (ESC) and the creation of the Department of Workforce.

First, allow me to express my gratitude to my good friend, Professor Bob Dickson, over at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, for the opportunity to speak with his government class. They were energetic, attentive and inquisitive and listened politely to my prepared remarks before making me earn my lunch with a raft of great questions.

Since they were in government class, it shouldn’t have been too surprising that the questions were well formed and spoke to the pressing issues of the day, as well as a few that were on larger, more general topics. I think I did pretty well, but as usual, I learned more than I imparted.

It is particularly valuable for me to hear the concerns of those just entering the job market, especially as we have just been through one of the toughest economic downturns in recent memory. These folks don’t want the government to take care of them, but if they have unemployment insurance through the state, they have every right to expect that it be run efficiently and fairly if they have occasion to use that insurance. That is precisely why we in the General Assembly passed a general reform measure creating a new Department of Workforce to mandate efficiency and fairness for those seeking unemployment benefits, especially since they and their employers have paid for that coverage.

After years of uncertainty and confusion at the ESC, the new Department of Workforce provides clear solvency targets for the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UITF) used to provide the benefits paid to the unemployed. It establishes new requirements for the contributions that the state’s employers make to the fund. It is something of abalancing act to anticipate exactly the level of funding we will need to take care of our financial obligations in this area. We certainly don’t want to take dollars from employers that could be used to create more jobs or create growth. By the same token, we can’t find ourselves in the position of having made promises we can’t keep to those who may have lost jobs.

With this in mind, the legislation establishes requirements for the Department of Workforce to calculate an annual contribution rate for each qualified employer that is based on aranking system which divides the employers into 20 benefit ratio classes, and any county in which the UITF is not solid, the state will impose a surcharge on all employers to pay interest on the outstanding debt. The estimated amount of interest to be paid in the year will be divided by the estimated tax role for the calendar year. All of this will be amatter of public record.

There is also an incident monitoring system whereby we can get a better idea of who is being discharged and why. The new system design is more rational, keeps better records, and should provide better service. It should also inspire more confidence in the state’s ability to do a creditably job in an area that had much room for improvement.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Unemployment compensation under new microscope

Bluffton Today

Last Tuesday was the final, final day of session. The day was mostly about vetoes, but also the beginning of ascertaining the impact of what happened and what didn’t happen this session.

Some folks like to measure our productivity by the number of bills passed from January to June. I am not one of those folks. In fact, I hope to prefile legislation that will amend our process so that each potential law we consider does not have to be contained in two bills. This is part of my ongoing “red tape reduction” campaign.

One of the things demonstrated by our many furloughs this session is that we can get just as much work done in many fewer days if we are focused and disciplined. Any suggestions in this area would be greatly appreciated.

One of our legitimate accomplishments is the reform of the Employment Security Commission. This was a troubled agency for years but managed to drag itself along pretty much on inertia and ageneral disinclination toward change among many members of the General Assembly. We all heard the reports of problems with under and overpayment of unemployment compensation as well as failure to apply for federal dollars to supplement and extend the benefits to our unemployed workers. There were also alarming stories of people abusing the system by intentionally getting fired for misbehavior and still collecting unemployment benefits.

In this case it was deemed more desirable to abolish the agency and reconstitute its functions in a new format. The solution was H.3442, which I strongly supported. The new creation, signed into law 30 March 2010, is the Department of Workforce, a cabinet level agency with an array of employment related responsibilities. Among other things, this department assumes the role of administering the unemployment compensation program, as well as arbitrating certain kinds of disputes that arise under this regime. The legislation also creates the Work Force Initiative of the Economic Development and Research Committee to review and make recommendations regarding steps that should be taken to improve the economy of the state, the employment of South Carolinians and restores a greater amount of financial security to the citizens of the state.

The legislation also goes into some detail as to what sorts of misconduct leading to termination that might also make one ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Misconduct includes such activities as assault or battery on a fellow employee or customer, abuse of a patient or child under professional care, willful and reckless damage to employee property in excess of $50, theft of items valued in excess of $50, failure to comply with applicable state and federal drug and alcohol testing, the consumption of alcohol or being drunk on the job in violation of written work place policy and regulations, insubordination, or willful neglect of duty.

It should be clear that we must give each worker in our state some level of job security, but also be equally adamant that those seeking to abuse the system will not be rewarded for bad behavior. For me, it was pretty much a matter of common sense, but even common sense needs to be articulated in unambiguous language if we are to avoid endless and frivolous litigation.

Next week, more on ESC reform as well as campaign disclosure legislation signed by the governor.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Electorate rejects ‘business as usual’

Bluffton Today

I’m going to postpone my analysis of the recent session for aweek or so. Instead, what I’d like to do is offer a few comments on the primary elections.

First off, its pretty clear that business-as-usual is not what South Carolinians want. In general terms, we can say that the election punished incumbents that were seen, correctly or incorrectly, as not being serious enough about reducing the size and scope of government. While I will personally miss some of the members not returning to the House, I am elated that the electorate is seemingly moving in my philosophical direction, and bringing some new people to the Republican Party.

One of the few potential bright spots in our dismal economic circumstance is that “hard times” makes reform much easier. It exposes the weaknesses in our process that seem to generate policies that leave us vulnerable to the cyclical nature of the overall economy, especially with our poorly diversified regional economy.

As I reported last week, we have cut the budget almost 30 percent in the last two years from $7 billion to $5 billion. While this is aconsiderable achievement, it does not excuse your representative or your Beaufort County delegation from our commitment to repatriate more of the dollars we currently send to Columbia back to our neighborhoods to fund our schools, fix our roads, or protect our rivers. In truth, as the budgetary pie gets smaller, the competition for our fair share becomes increasingly fierce. The next couple of years are going to be a serious test for the delegation. I am confident that we will rise to the challenge.

Much of my confidence is due to the fact that my friend Andy Patrick is the presumptive winner of the House District 123 seat, representing Hilton Head Island. Andy conducted a brilliant, positive, idea-driven campaign and will be a strong member of the delegation. Senator Davis, Representative Erickson and I have already introduced Andy to many of the key people in the General Assembly, particularly folks in the Coastal Caucus.

Our part of the Lowcountry sends buckets of money to Columbia, but much of the distribution of those dollars is based on population, of which we are relatively short. The only way we can compete is to have a coherent, disciplined delegation that is able to bring focused pressure on the challenges we face. It is better to have a big hammer pounding on the system rather than have several little hammers chipping around the edges. With our current lineup, I think we have every reason to be confident that we will make progress on our key issue, which is getting better return on our tax dollars.

As always, I am indebted to you, the residents and voters of Beaufort County and District 118 for your constant input into the political process. Even with the runoff this last week, we still managed to field more than 400 constituent contacts. That kind of robust communication, especially combined with the helpful new addition to the delegation, certainly bodes well for our chances in the next session. Then again, that’s why we call it the House of Representatives.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Budget reflects our core values

Bluffton Today

As promised, I want to make a few comments on the 2010-2011 budget. How we collect and spend the people’s money to do the people’s business is the most important criterion by which we in the General Assembly must be judged. Regardless of what you hear from any lawmaker, myself included, concerning political or economic philosophy, it is the budget that says what we truly believe. In a universe of potential expenditure, the budget speaks plainly of what we value.
In lean times, that which is valued least is the first to be jettisoned, while those things defined as “core functions” are preserved, even if they are diminished. In especially lean times, such as we are currently experiencing, even core functions are subject to evaluation. For example, in education, we always show a bias for the classroom teacher over the administrator, even though both are integral to the efficiency and integrity of education. In this, I believe we accurately reflect the priorities of those we represent.
Interestingly, there is a political movement gaining a foothold in our electoral process that demands, among other things, government that is smaller both in size and scope, that takes and uses fewer of our dollars while addressing those core functions realistically and effectively. I would suggest that at least in South Carolina, we in the General Assembly have more than anticipated those demands and produced truth-telling budgets to back it up.
Witness the fact that in the last two years, we have slashed spending from nearly $7 billion to less than $5 billion-- nearly a 30% decrease in the size of state government. There have been no general tax increases and this year there were no fee increases. Even with these draconian cuts, we have managed to fund what we believe are the core functions of government: education; law enforcement; and healthcare.
Even with this level of austerity, there are things that we think will create further cuts in future years. One of the more powerful cost cutting tools is requiring state agencies to begin with zero-based budgets next year. The potential results of this proviso are huge.
This is not to say that everyone was on board with these necessary budget cuts. In fact, if we total up all the proposed spending increases for this year alone, they come to an astounding $7 billion in spending increases. This would have returned school property taxes on homes, increased sales tax, as well as resulted in dramatic escalation of a variety of fees. Fortunately, the dominant political and economic philosophy in the House of Representatives and certainly within the Ways and Means Committee is some version of fiscal conservatism. While all fiscal conservatives don’t march in lockstep, we have a general agreement on what are indeed the core functions of government, and what is the bare minimum needed to keep the lights on. This year, I can say we tested those limits.
Next week, I will explain the dynamic that finally ended the current iteration of the Sembler matter. In weeks to come, I will also try to flesh out the implications of what passed this session and what we might be looking at next time around.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Editorial writers don’t get reality

Bluffton Today

Some of you may have noticed that after years of eating my lunch at every opportunity, the editorial board of “the other paper” seems to be warming to my legislative style. While they didn’t actually apologize for their often ill considered disappointment with me, their editorial of last Sunday was almost an admission that South Carolina politics is often about delaying or blocking the truly harmful, while engineering the opportunities to get some positive things done.

This is a fact that is simply the background radiation in Columbia. If they prefer to call it setting the legislative bar pretty low, or bemoan the fact that this simply might reflect the current community standard, so be it.

It also reflects the different worldviews that come with our respective jobs. An editorial writer can assume we live in a rational world and that good intentions will reap good results. They can conveniently overlook the fact that our state has historical and structural issues that seem to require we overcome a lot of foolishness before we even get to address the pressing issues of the day.

There is a facile tendency among some editorial writers to choose good guys and bad guys based on what would be if this were the best of all worlds. Consequently, when the clipping service comes around with a batch of editorials or political articles, especially during session, we’ll take a break and have a good laugh. Honestly, it’s often like the reality on the ground is being shoehorned into a framework of opinion that simply won’t fit.

My job, as I see it, is to represent the interests of my constituents as effectively as possible. We are a representative body with rules and protocols that shape how things are done. One member is as effective as his or her network of relationships allow. My effectiveness is based on my relationships and the ground upon which those relationships are built is jobs.

Everyone in the General Assembly knows what gets my attention: jobs. Constant readers of this column know my position on the primacy of meaningful employment. The pursuit of good jobs for District 118 and Beaufort County is also the filter that helps to make sense of the legislative noise.

This noise is the product of constant negotiation and shifting pools of alliances. The interests of the coastal areas are often in opposition to the inland counties. The Upstate has different priorities than the Lowcountry. The rich counties see things differently than the poorer counties. The Democratic caucus and the Republican caucus rarely move in concert. Overlay that with members who want to move up the food chain and need to stand out with an issue that they push, even if it is less important to the general welfare than other issues. I think you get the picture.

It is not the best of all worlds.

It is not particularly rational and certainly does not seem to be particularly coherent, at least to the uninitiated. It is a competitive mingling of all the economic, political and doctrinal elements of our state. As inefficient as it seems, we eventually sort out what is important, what we can agree on, what we can pay for, and who gets the credit. That is what becomes law.

Next week, commentary on the budget: what we did and didn’t do.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cost of crime lab will pay dividends

Bluffton Today

This week I had an excellent talk with Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner. One of the items up for discussion was the opening of the new crime lab a couple of weeks ago.

Not only is this a state-of-the-art forensics and DNA facility, it was produced in an amazingly short time for a comparatively modest outlay of dollars.

The sheriff and I agree that the cost/benefit analysis for this law enforcement tool is such that the citizens of Beaufort County bought a ton of security and crime prevention for a pound of expenditure.

Sheriff Tanner and Solicitor Duffy Stone no longer have to wait in line for crucial forensic analysis work at the SLED lab in Columbia. We can expect their efficiency, which is already high, to take asignificant bump up when this lab comes on line in July.

The progression of this lab project from idea to operational unit is a great example of why Tanner has a statewide reputation as an elected official who gets things done. From eight years on the Judiciary Committee, I know for a fact that our sheriff is the standard against which most law enforcement officers are measured in South Carolina.

One of my first major legislative initiatives many years ago, which resulted in the Fender Bender Law, was at the urging of Sheriff Tanner. He is still the levelheaded voice of reason whenever the delegation considers law enforcement matters.

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Forum Club over at Sun City last week. What a great group. The dialogue and interaction with these folks is always a lot of fun for me. They pay attention to what’s going on and aren’t shy about contributing ideas on how things might be done better or more efficiently, or more cost effectively. I get more good, solid ideas from Sun City folks in one speaking engagement than most of my colleagues get from constituents in an entire year. Come to think of it, isn’t that what representative democracy is supposed to be about. Ideally, we are not just talking about the “consent of the governed” but also the active, enthusiastic participation of the governed.

Last week, I had agood talk with my pal Buck Limehouse, secretary of the state Department of Transportation. He will be coming for avisit in the very near future to help sort out some of our lingering transportation issues. One might reasonably ask why we are even talking about roads in view of the budget catastrophe we are currently experiencing. The answer is that many of our road projects are at least partially funded already, and what we need is coordination with SCDOT. At any rate, we will be discussing the entrance to St. Gregory the Great, medians going into Hilton Head, as well as some traffic calming and parking issues along S.C. 46 and S.C. 170.

My experience is that a site visit with the fellow in charge is worth about six months of e- mails and phone calls to those further down the food chain.

Finally, if you sent me an email last week and I didn’t get back to you right away, it’s because we had another glitch in the e-mail system in Columbia. I estimate we lost around 100 emails. My communication with you is aseriously big deal and any time it’s interrupted, I’m more than a little concerned. Please resend those e-mails and I will be right back to you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cigarette tax a tough choice

Bluffton Today

This week you certainly got your money’s worth from this legislator. The session is winding down and things have to get finished. Those of us who know and understand the rules and how the process works are the folks that get things done.

One of the things we accomplished this week was the override of governor’s veto of the increase of the cigarette tax. At 57 cents apack, we are now pretty much at the regional average, but significantly under the national average. It was interesting that the debate on the floor was almost exactly as I anticipated a few weeks ago in one of my “inside baseball” civics lessons.

A 50-cent increase was what was doable, perhaps not optimal, but possible. The only arguments on the floor in favor of sustaining the veto were ideological or process related, with little reference to the merits of the debate.

There is little doubt that even amodest tax increase will deter asignificant number of kids from taking up smoking. No one argues that there are health costs related to smoking, much of which falls upon the state, especially if those health costs are generated by citizens of lesser means. The revenue from the tax will be put into an account until next year. When we get good metrics on the amounts and rate of flow, we will apply the dollars toward health care and Medicaid. There is some conversation that education and law enforcement will also see some of this revenue, but that currently seems unlikely.

It’s been almost 10 years since the effort to raise this tax got started. We mostly agreed that it needed to be done, but it just got waylaid by one thing or another each time we were close. Given the fact that this long-fought battle is won (at least for now), I should feel better about it than I do. The tax certainly meets the criteria for qualifying as a“user fee” in that costs associated with the use of tobacco products are being paid by those using the product. I get that. The truth is that I just don’t like the idea of raising taxes even when I know it’s the proper thing to do. My legislative responsibility tells me it should have been done years ago, but my gut resists.

Fortunately, we didn’t have much time to indulge in a lot of introspection, as there were deals to make and votes to whip. One was the Daufuskie and Sun City golf cart bill, which was almost down for the count. We revived that measure, got it passed in the House in record time and we are now looking for a Senate bill to bobtail. If we are successful with this bill, Mary and I might purchase that golf cart we’ve been thinking about.

Finally, the Jasper delegation made amove to bring forward a Sembler bill without environmental, workforce or oversight protections onto the floor of the House. It will be a race to see which bill finishes, and I really appreciate all I’ve been hearing from you on this. Sometimes, politics is not so much about making the best choices as it is about pursuing the least bad option. I will keep you posted on how this shakes out.

Bill Herbkersman ,R-Bluffton, represents District 118 in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He can be reached through his Website at www.herbkersman.com or by telephone at 757-7900

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lawmakers respect local legislation

Bluffton Today

It was great to see so many of you out for the Bluffton Village Festival. We had a nearly perfect day, and as of this writing, a perfect evening. The many thousands of shoppers and strollers are now the many hundreds of revelers at the Promenade enjoying the after party. Is it any wonder that Bluffton is booming?
More seriously, my column of last week was prescient in noting that the Jasper County leadership will not be deterred from creating employment in their region. As expected, Rep. Curtis Brantley has introduced a new Sembler bill, which strips out all the protections your representative worked so diligently to add to the older legislation. The new bill is local legislation, an important fact, and was motivated in part by the beating I have been taking in the local press and what that might imply for the current bill’s chances. It is unfortunate that provincial editorial boards sometimes fixate on the process rather than the probable outcomes of legislation. In this case, we may very well find ourselves with all the potential downside of the Sembler deal, with none of the protections that might have limited much of the damage.
I will, of course, continue to work with Rep. Brantley to amend his bill to include the aforementioned protections. They not only benefit us, they also protect the long-term interests of the citizens of Jasper County as well.
It is important to note that the new bill is a local bill, and as such is almost immune from contest. It is rare that one delegation will oppose the local legislation of another. It is something of a necessary evil in the General Assembly that we pass things of local or regional concern such as TIF Districts or various taxing entities as state law, even as the SC Constitution (Articles III and VIII) would seem to disallow this. In practice, what may be absolutely essential for Greenville might not be productive in the Lowcountry. What might be essential for our sea oats may not make sense for the Reedy River. For good or ill, artful wording of local legislation satisfies the letter of the constitution, even if it deflects the intent.
What this means is that if the recently amended Sembler bill, with my subcommittee’s protections, is defeated in conference, the new Brantley bill will most likely pass, minus the protections. If any member of our delegation causes the Brantley local bill to fail, our delegation will be subject to unspecific but eventual certain retaliation. Perhaps the next time we need a modest change to the Dept. of Commerce definition of “corporate headquarters” so that a company like CareCore will be able to relocate to Bluffton, we will be inexplicably blocked. Or if we finally get the state real estate organization to support a local option real estate transfer fee for high growth counties and we inexplicably don’t have the votes for our local bill, we will understand that custom in the legislature is taken very seriously.
It also means that I will probably continue to disappoint elements of the press on this issue. If that disappointment is the cost of aggressively protecting the interests of my constituents in this challenging situation, so be it.
Next week: more civics lessons.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sembler legislation could be much worse

Bluffton Today

As mentioned in last week’s column, the Sembler deal returned from the Senate and spent a day in the House Economic Development Subcommittee, which I chair, and emerged with exactly the three changes I promised.

The bill includes the environmental component that essentially mirrors the highly regarded Beaufort County Stormwater Management Ordinance. This feature will provide meaningful protection for the headwaters of the already impaired Okatie River regardless of what final configuration the Okatie Crossing project assumes. I am indebted to the Coastal Conservation League for their invaluable work on this part of the bill.

The second addition that came out of subcommittee is the local labor standards part of the deal. Some of the final language is being completed on this because as the bill transitioned in the Senate from a state incentive to local incentive format, the negotiations returned to the local entities: Hardeeville, Jasper County and the developer.

Unfortunately, if you read the article in one of our local news outlets, it was made to seem as though we rolled over and a lobbyist for Sembler wrote the agreement. Not remotely true. It was simply that the locals were back in charge.

The last change to the bill was the addition of an oversight committee to make certain that all agreed criteria are met before incentives are paid. This process will be ongoing for the life of the project, which is estimated at 30 years.

The evolution of this bill points to both strong and weak points in our legislative process.

The strength of our system is exemplified by the good work of Sen. Tom Davis in taking a House bill that had state tax incentives to support a local retail project and using the Senate process to modify the bill into a local option sales tax supporting local incentives for a local project. In my view, the three additional stipulations will make the bill, if passed in conference, a presentable piece of legislation — not great but not catastrophic.

The weakness of our system, of course, is made vivid by the fact that we essentially think we have to buy jobs for our citizens. Having said that, jobs are jobs, and they are necessary.

The one thing in this dynamic that did not change is the commitment of the Jasper County leadership to secure decent employment for their folks. Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Rep. Curtis Brantley and Rep. Kenneth Hodges, along with Mayor Bronco Bostick, are solid public servants and they are going to do what is necessary to create jobs. In fact, if the state sanctioned version of the Sembler bill is defeated, or sidetracked, there will be a local bill that will create a local option sales tax that will fund incentives for Sembler, or whomever will develop the Okatie Crossing site. Rep. Brantley was good enough to show me an outline of the bill.

If it comes to that, what will change? First of all, the environmental standards will revert to the Jasper County standards, such as they are. There will be no oversight committee, with no Beaufort County participation. We will witness and be affected by a project over which we have no effective control. Our aversion to a flawed process will have given us what we least desire.