Sunday, March 25, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

Within hours of delivery, Bluffton Today’s article on those of us filing for election or reelection has had my phone ringing. Thanks to all those who shared their thoughts and kind words. I am truly humbled and grateful.

It also prompted me to think back on all the changes that have taken place since District 118 was moved to Bluffton in 2002. Politically speaking, we were on the dark side of the moon. We were sending a ton of dollars to Columbia and getting back a pound of nickels. Today, by contrast, your representative and our Beaufort County delegation are poised to join the top tier of leadership in the General Assembly. After redistricting is complete, we will add another seat, District 120, along with a good portion of neighboring Jasper County, giving us a collective voice commensurate with the economic contribution we make to the state.

Two of my most cherished successes have to do with safety issues involving the Sun City area, and are separated by almost eight years. The first was the installation of the traffic signal in front of the main gate to Sun City. Former Beaufort County Councilwoman Margaret Griffin and I worked every side of that issue before finally seeing that light slow down the racetrack that was then Highway 278 west of Highway 170. More recently, County Council Chairman Weston Newton and I finally prevailed in our efforts before the State Infrastructure Bank to secure the $24 million in funding to, among other things, make Highway 170 on the east side of Sun City into a modern, safe road. Sometimes you just have to keep at it.

Another early success that we continue to build upon had to do with water quality problems in our part of the county. We were able to build a durable working relationship between South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the Town of Bluffton, Beaufort County, and Friends of the Rivers, to address the water quality issue with funding for monitoring and top scientific expertise. This is likely to be ongoing for some time.

My efforts at revitalizing the Coastal Caucus have paid big dividends, especially with recognizing the splendid work of Al Stokes and his crew at the Waddell Mariculture Center. They went from near extinction to a highly valued, line item funded feature of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

We are also poised for success in my multi-year effort to secure state education funds under the Education Finance Act (EFA). We are also looking at real state fiscal support for USCB and Technical College of the Lowcountry. Ways and Means Committee leadership does make a difference.

Somewhat related to that is this very recent development: we just signed the papers to enable a partnership between the state and the Town of Bluffton to build a dinghy dock at the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park. More on what this means later.

Finally, I want to thank Bluffton Today for this platform. My column has been instrumental in creating an ongoing conversation between this representative and the Greater Bluffton community. I routinely get hundreds of calls and emails commenting on the contents of each week’s column. As I have become a more experienced and influential legislator, your voice has grown stronger and more resonant in Columbia. Our partnership and the directness of our communication informs my politics and guides my efforts on behalf of District 118. I am clear on what you want because we have this amazing system, the heart of which is 600 words in the Bluffton Today every week, year after year.