Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July holiday. That said, there is an issue of water safety that must be addressed. We were out on the water for the last few weekends and the level and amount of bad behavior was stunning. In the 35 years we have been in the Lowcountry, I have never seen anything like it. The combination of more boats, more powerful boats, and obvious alcohol abuse on the water makes for a very dangerous situation. With the number of children being pulled behind these boats on tubes or other water toys, we are likely to find ourselves with bad consequences.

It was about this time last year that I urged all you locals out there to help clean up some of the problems on the various sandbars. Sometimes new people or visitors just don’t understand what the limitations are when you get a ton of folks on the sandbars, including kids and dogs and cookout rigs of various sorts. I believe, as do most of you, in the power of constructive conversation among friends when it comes to addressing these kinds of issues.

Before this becomes a massive law enforcement situation, please talk to your friends, maybe your spouse, or visitors about the rules of the road when it comes to safety on the water. Right now, the wakes from hundreds of boats are seriously eroding areas of the shoreline, not to mention tearing up docks and floats. One way or another, this has to stop. I prefer the path of individual responsibility, which worked pretty well on the sandbars, instead of packing the river with contingents of Coast Guard, Department of Natural Resources, and other law enforcement entities. For me, it is better to have voluntary self-restraint in these matters. Otherwise, the inevitable tragedy will drive a government response. We can’t complain about the “nanny state” if we can’t act in a reasonable, safe manner out on the public waterways.

Obviously the big news last week was the Supreme Court decision regarding ObamaCare. I was disappointed that the individual mandate was not struck down. For my reasons, see above. While there was a great deal to be disappointed about, there were also features that offer the states some leeway in lessening the more onerous aspects of the law. For our state, had the mandatory expansion of Medicaid been upheld, I’m afraid the General Assembly would have become little more than a funding mechanism for indigent healthcare.

As a relatively poor state, Medicaid currently covers around a million out of the 4.6 million residents of South Carolina. Had the mandatory expansion been upheld, we would have added an additional 500,000 people to the program. That is something around 1 out of 3 South Carolinians depending on the government for health insurance. Just as we have gotten our fiscal house in better order, such a blow would have made a mess of our hard-won frugality.

The other feature of the ruling had to do with allowing the states to opt out of the expansion of Medicaid without fear of having the federal government punish us by reducing the current 70% match for the investment we make in Medicaid. Honestly, this was a huge concern. Our education budget is currently being diminished by the federal Dept. of Ed. for falling short of a mandatory level of support for special education. If the federal government was allowed this form of retribution on Medicaid, the whole notion of state’s sovereignty would be out the window.

There is much more to be said on this topic in weeks to come.