With the blockbuster announcement recently by our retiring Senator Jim DeMint, I immediately began receiving call after call from folks claiming to wonder if I was on the short list for appointment to the soon-to-be-vacant seat. To pre-empt any more wonderment as to my status, here is the official response: With regard to the Senate seat in question, if I’m called, I will not pick up. If appointed, I will not serve. End of story.
Seriously, folks, the one thing you can say about South Carolina politics is it’s never boring. Sometimes it’s bizarre and always provokes a fair amount of head scratching, but never boring. In truth, with the new configuration of the Beaufort/Jasper delegation, especially after the announcement of committee assignments, I am pretty excited about the upcoming session. We have a strong team with a lot of experience, and thanks to redistricting, we include a couple of new players looking to make a big difference right away.
In particular, Rep. Shannon Erickson returns to Labor, Commerce and Industry (LCI) but moved up to a subcommittee chair. Rep. Andy Patrick moved up in Education and Public Works. Long-serving member Rep. Bill Bowers has moved up in LCI and assumed a subcommittee chair. The surprise (that surprised no one) was the appointment of freshman Rep. Weston Newton to Judiciary, usually reserved for members with at least two or three years of service. The plum appointment speaks to the high expectations placed on the shoulders of my friend Weston after his many years as chairman of Beaufort County Council and especially to his long list of achievements in service to the home folks.
As we get ready for the new session, your delegation is already in mid-season form after our organizational meetings. Even our desks in the House chamber are situated so that we can readily confer on any matters that may arise. You can expect to hear from me on the details of our current efforts to bring fairness to education funding, not only K-12, but as was noted last week, in the fiscal treatment of our local post-secondary offerings as well. You will also learn more about the healthcare exchanges that are part of the Affordable Healthcare Act, especially as we get our cost calculations refined. Of course, your delegation is always seeking to raise the banner for economic development in our area.
In that vein, we recently saw the opening of a new big-box store in Greater Bluffton, as Dick’s Sporting Goods finally rolled out in the Target Shopping Center. There was some concern that local stores would feel the pinch of the new store. What happens is that weaker businesses may indeed be hurt, but stronger outfits with solid management simply adjust, refine their business models and carry on. A great example of this forward-looking strategy comes from my friend Jim Buser, who many of you know as the owner of Sports Addiction. Jim and his crew are now located in the Food Lion shopping center out by Sun City. Reports from a number of Sun City Cyclers are that the new store is great, with more bikes and gear, more fitness equipment, and the same great service you expect from a local firm with deep roots in the community.
Finally, we are at that time of year when Christmas parties and New Year’s celebrations are coming up. Please be smart about your safety and the safety of your friends. I urge you to have a designated driver. I want everyone to have a good time but to be moderate in the consumption of adult beverages. Unwise celebration can have very bad outcomes.