Monday, April 18, 2011

From The House

Bluffton Today

The General Assembly is on furlough this week and many of your senators and representatives will be on Hilton Head Island for the Heritage Golf Tournament.

It is our time to shine as many of our visitors will enjoy the golf and the festivities, but also tour the mainland and all that we have to offer this side of the ICW. Please be helpful and patient with those who may not know their way around.

Remember they are here to enjoy what we often take for granted. They are also leaving us a gigantic financial windfall — something around $80 million in direct and indirect benefit.

With regard to my efforts to save this showcase event, we in the House have come up with a plan that may well see a vote next week or soon thereafter. We are first going to continue our work with Commerce, Parks Recreation and Tourism, the Governor’s Office, the Heritage Foundation, as well as all stakeholder groups. We are beating the bushes hard to find a proper sponsor.

As late as Wednesday night, I spent hours with Duane Parrish, director of PRT talking about possible scenarios. We both have generated leads for Commerce, as well as Gov. Nikki Haley. The obvious preferred solution is to find a sponsor in the private sector. However, failing that, the financial contingency plan is quite simple from the state’s viewpoint. We will simply reinvest part of our revenue from the Heritage back into a fund to provide the necessary time to find a sponsor. This assumes the town of Hilton Head and Beaufort County also come forward with their committed funding.

I continue to hear from all sides of this issue and will continue to take comments for as long as you have them. Philosophical reservations notwithstanding, I don’t think anyone will convince me to abandon my efforts to preserve this showcase event. Even if we discount the direct economic benefit (which is considerable), or the jobs created and preserved by the Heritage, there is simply no more effective vehicle for us to show the world a sampling of the many features of our magnificent Lowcountry. The intangibles are over the moon. Who knows how many new residents, full- and part-time, are moving to Beaufort County because of the arresting visuals they see during the televised portions of this golf event?

On the education front, I want to give all you dedicated school teachers a heads-up on what you will read in the latest issue of “Member Matters,” the newsletter of the S.C. Education Association. The head lobbyist, Jackie Hicks, had some pretty harsh things to say about your representative and several of my colleagues on the Ways and Means subcommittee. We are described as “bullying” and employing “verbally violent attacks” against those giving testimony on our school choice bill.

In my view, those characterizations are exaggerated beyond any reasonable standard of accuracy. Having said that, the topic is one that seems to excite the emotions of those on both sides of this important issue. If you want to discuss this matter, please call or come by the office. I think you will find the real story is immeasurably more benign than what was reported by the lobbyist.

Finally, please visit the new gathering place at St. Joseph’s Park in the heart of the Promenade. It is the community project of the Leadership Bluffton/Hilton Head class of 2011. They did a superb job.