Wednesday, July 25, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

Last week was an out-of-the-park home run, record-breaking week for your representative as far as constituent contacts were concerned. With your responses to my comments on the river and the enormous concern over the governor’s vetoes, we fielded 578 of your emails, calls and notes to our office last week. We also got a pretty vivid lesson on what the residents of District 118 care most about. None of what we learned was new or startling, but the passionate nature and the seriousness of the concerns were impressive to say the least.

We know you care about our natural resources. The veto of the Sea Grant Consortium funding was tantamount to running the lawn mower over a nest of ground wasps. Many of your messages spoke eloquently of why you chose to live in our part of the Lowcountry and how the clean water and the lovely, green landscapes captured you from your first visit.

We also heard from the sportfishing community, not only locally but from around the country. Sportfishing is a billion plus dollar industry in our state, which feeds into both hospitality and real estate. The Sea Grant Consortium has been a critical supporter of the science that helps to sustain and expand our policy successes in protecting the water quality upon which this industry thrives. As always, my thanks go to Dr. Chris Marsh from the Lowcountry Institute for his succinct and persuasive arguments in favor of our override of this veto.

Another of the areas where our understanding was reinforced had to do with how you feel about the arts in your community. Our state rarely makes the top lists in industrial development or educational attainment, but we are well known as a place where the arts are a vital part of every locality, none more so than Beaufort County. Even without such luminaries as Joe Bowler, Jonathan Green, or West Fraser, our state benefits greatly from the number and quality of working and aspiring artists contributing to a legion of shops and galleries that not only make for an interesting quality of life for residents but also attract visitors from the world over. The thought that we might do away with our Arts Commission was for many folks, pretty close to unthinkable.

Although many employees have not had a raise for a while, the veto of the teacher’s 2% raise created something of a firestorm. Teachers are a special class of public employee that has unique responsibilities in transmitting the best of our culture to future generations. The ability to compete with our neighboring states for the best teachers is a real competitive concern for this representative. While I supported the across-the-board raises, I would like to continue the inquiry into how to properly reward the best teachers while also identifying their less productive colleagues, with an eye toward perhaps directing them to other employment. That is an issue with which Secretary Zais has been tasked, about which we will hear more next session.

I was proud of the Beaufort/Jasper Delegation in the handling of these vetoes. We were in solidarity with each other as well as the overwhelming majority of our constituents in protecting the budgets of those entities we recognize as core governmental functions.

Next week, I will finish up the veto analysis. We will also look at some of the accomplishments of the last session, as well as look forward to next session with the new presumptive representative from District 120, my friend Weston Newton.