The first week of session did not produce much on the legislative side. Bills were being read across the desk and assigned to committees. After bills pass committee, they come back to the floor for debate. Anything of note, at that time, will be reported to you in this space.
The constituent contacts were back up to over 350, with many of you wanting to know if there were any significant developments on the security breach at the Department of Revenue. If there is any new information to report, you will hear the details here.
While there was not much to report as far as legislation, there was a meeting put together by this legislator, USCB Chancellor Jane Upshaw and Vice-Chancellor Lynn McGee concerning a key feature of our delegation agenda. It had to do with our commitment to vigorously push for funding parity for our local branch of the University of South Carolina system. This meeting started as a routine get-together with USC branch officials and a few legislators, but quickly blossomed into an event that was later characterized by Dr. Upshaw, a lady not usually given to hyperbole, as nothing short of “historic.”
As the larger contingent of university officials began to arrive and the full scope of the event began to be realized, the entire auditorium filled to capacity. The Beaufort County delegation was the point of the spear on this issue, and included participation by Rep. Weston Newton, who is very knowledgeable in this matter, Rep. Andy Patrick, Rep. Shannon Erickson, and Sen. Tom Davis.
What made the meeting truly historic was the fact that all the chancellors of the branch campuses, as well as the President of the University of South Carolina, Dr. Harris Pastides, were in attendance, and all were agreed that the parity issue needed solution, and that solution was to happen this year. To make the commitment all the more emphatic was the fact that as the meeting came to order, nearly all the members whose districts contained branch campuses were in the room, as were about half of the members of Ways and Means Committee. This included Rep. Jim Merrill and Rep. Chip Limehouse, the Subcommittee Chairman for Higher Education.
Dr. Pastides remarks left no room for doubt that funding parity was a priority of the university system and a priority to be accomplished this year. Our own Dr. Upshaw took the podium and made her persuasive argument as to the necessity of the change, and the benefits that would flow from an immediate remedy for a deficiency that had languished for far too long.
As much as this amazing event seemed to almost spontaneously spring forth from some fountainhead of enlightenment, the truth is somewhat more prosaic. It had to do with the fact that Dr. Upshaw and Dr. McGee, along with your Beaufort delegation, have been building the foundation for this remarkable consensus for quite some time. This “historic” meeting was the product of dozens of smaller meetings in offices and restaurants across the state. All the good preparation had the expected outcome, although we were all a little surprised at the degree of unanimity and enthusiasm.
One thing that does not surprise me is the work ethic of our delegation. The addition of Rep. Weston Newton, as expected, has made a tremendous difference in our chemistry and effectiveness. As Weston becomes a little more accustomed to the new venue for his service, we will lift our game even higher.