Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

It was another busy week in Columbia. We had several people from Bluffton/Beaufort come up to visit. President Tom Leitzel of the Technical College of the Lowcountry, along with his chairman of the TCL Commission, General Art Brown, were in town for a technical college meeting. We had a good conversation about their needs at the college, as well as some of their initiatives in moving residents into good jobs through the excellent training they offer. A case in point, they are having a series of open houses around the county beginning with a Health Sciences event on Thursday, March 14, from 5-7 at the New River Campus in Bluffton. For more information call 843-525-8267 or go to These folks are one of the economic development linchpins for our area.

I also had a great visit with Rose Newton, the lovely wife of Rep. Weston Newton. Rose was in town with the Bankers Association. It is always impressive how Rose can run their Myrtle Island home, keep all those young’uns shiny clean and on time to all their events, as well as be a banking executive and corporate representative, not to mention keeping Rep. Newton on his toes.

The people got their money’s worth from us this week. We got a lot done. One of those things was to correct the process that led to the election debacle where hundreds of candidates were removed from the ballots in 2012 election, essentially on a technicality. Aside from some confusing language in the rules, one of the underlying problems was that papers were filed with local parties, rather than county election commissions, which tend to be more consistently up to date on election law. Now, candidates can get filing forms on the web and file with the election commission and statements of economic interest are filed under our Ethics Law. Our local parties were pretty good with all this but there was some ambiguity in the process that has now been cleared up.

One final change to the bi-partisan bill was made that turns back the efforts of some party leaders to nominate more candidates by convention rather than by primary. In my view, this is wise in that we want to give the voters the absolute maximum chance to weigh potential candidates, rather than leave it to a small group of party activists. We had 623,000 South Carolinians vote in our 2010 party primaries. As much as I respect our party leaders, I trust the judgment of our primary voters, even though our primary system is imperfect.

Finally, your representative was elected this year’s chairman of the Jasper County legislative delegation at a very well attended meeting last Monday in the Hardeeville City Council chambers. I was joined by Rep. Weston Newton, Rep. Bill Bowers, Sen. Tom Davis and Sen. Clementa Pinckney in what turned out to be a lively and interesting meeting. We took care of some procedural and housekeeping business, then opened the floor for public comment.

There was an interesting exchange between a representative of the school district and a member of the school board concerning the honoring of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that was in dispute. The discussion seemed to turn on some points of definition, which was not within the scope of our meeting, so we moved on. Interestingly, Rep Weston Newton has emerged as a leading voice on Judiciary Committee in their efforts to rework the FOIA to avoid just such disputes. When those efforts are complete, let’s hope that tighter definitions and clearer procedures lead to more transparency and less argument.