Wednesday, August 8, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

After being out on the water for most of the day, I’d like to return to the issue we broached a couple weeks ago having to do with bad boating behavior on our waterways. We are still getting lots of calls and emails on this matter. The range of comment is pretty extreme. Most folks are just interested in safe, respectful boat operation. They understand that things can go bad quickly if you combine boats, big horsepower and alcohol. As for me, I have no interest in extending the nanny state to the river, but I would rather preempt egregious violations rather than see people hurt and property abused or destroyed.

From my observations, as well as what I am hearing, it seems as if it is not Bluffton boaters causing the bulk of the problem, but those from surrounding areas who trailer into either All Joy Landing or the Oyster Factory boat ramp. Peer pressure works well with friends and neighbors, but is not too effective with visitors, especially if they have had a few adult beverages.

In the last few weeks, I have had conversations with a couple of DNR folks and members of the Coastal Caucus up in Columbia. Unfortunately, this is vacation time and several of the key people I needed to speak with were unavailable. I do know that our situation here is not isolated. As more visitors decide to make the move to the coast, the problems on the water have increased considerably.

One idea that I have run by several of my legislative colleagues is drawing favorable comment. That idea is to allow video of seriously bad behavior to become part of the law enforcement toolbox. Most of us carry phones with video capability. It seems like a fairly common sense way to give our officers a chance to make good cases without actually seeing the offense. It might also help to compensate for the fact that our policing assets on the waterways are stretched pretty thin.

Before I start thinking in terms of legislation, I need to hear from you on this. Is this a good idea? What kinds of limitations would this necessarily involve? Should video be restricted to misdemeanor offences? Does the fact of everyone’s phone being potentially a law enforcement tool seem a little too “big brother” to you?

I am your representative and my success for the last decade in the statehouse has been due largely to the fact that you let me know what you require of your state government. Every time I seek your thoughts and opinions, without exception, you have come through in grand fashion. This is an important issue and I am confident you won’t be silent.

Incidentally, one of the benefits for this legislator of our recent reapportionment has to do with the fact that our folks want to have a say in their government. While I have been the beneficiary of your good ideas and opinions, the massive increase in our population has meant that District 118 was twice the size it was supposed to be. With the creation of the new District 120, I will be more able to render the personal service that you expect without working my staff overtime every week.

My friend Weston Newton will take over the District 120 seat the first of the year. You know him to be a seasoned and talented public servant. Together, we will make your voice heard loud and clear in Columbia.