Monday, August 8, 2011

From the House

Bluffton Today

The number of calls increased last week despite the heat and the end of the session. A number of the calls were about issues that I am interested in, but have no special knowledge, such as school district matters, the federal debt ceiling, and even some town issues. Like you, I have opinions on these things; and sometimes I may be able to point you in a more productive direction for information, but unless it is a state matter, my opinions are just that.

One of the issues that folks are interested in has to do with redistricting, which is a process that is related to the work of the Census Bureau. Every ten years, they count us, determine where we all live, and help decide how our political institutions should be realigned so that we all have a fairly equal say in the government. From the state’s perspective, we do two major jobs: we decide where the new General Assembly district lines should be so that each political sub-division has roughly the same number of folks. You may remember that my district, 118, increased to almost twice as many residents as it should have, so I have been given a reconfigured area that is more proportional population-wise with the surrounding areas. I still represent Old Town Bluffton and most of Sun City, but I also have Hardeeville and much of southern Jasper County.

Since our state has increased in population while other states have decreased, we were awarded an additional congressional district, the seventh. Historically, we had seven congressional districts until the 1930s when we lost population as other states, mostly in the industrial northeast, made substantial gains. Now the process has reversed and we have seven districts again.

It is the job of the General Assembly to draw the new district lines. This time around, there were two plans for the new district-- one had Beaufort as the center of the new constituency, and the other had Horry County/Myrtle Beach as its anchor. In my view, both plans had strengths and weaknesses, but the folks from the Grand Strand prevailed.

Our new congressional home is in the First Congressional District, with Tim Scott as our congressman. As Congressman Scott is a friend of mine, and much of our Coastal Caucus is located between North Charleston and here, I wasn’t too disappointed to lose the new designation. In fact, after reflection, it seems to me that we have come out of this reapportioning process with much more political and economic coherence than was previously the case. While we are grateful for the good work of Congressman Wilson and especially to his “go to” staffer Cris Steele, our new situation offers much positive potential.

In the past, reapportioning was usually a messy, insider-driven process. More often than not, the courts would intervene and outcomes were puzzling to the average voter. This time around, I believe we did a good job of running this difficult process with much more openness and stakeholder input. The credit for this goes, in large part, to my friend Jim Harrison (R-Richland Co.). Jim is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the group tasked with getting this thing done in a fair, business-like manner. I hope at least some of you attended the community input sessions that were organized across the state.

Finally, the fact that we have another congressman also means that we have another electoral vote in the presidential election. Sometimes, things just keep getting better.