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.