Wednesday, May 1, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

I want to thank all of you who called or emailed with comments on last week’s column. There were a fair number of comments on the Ethics Bill, which I will speak to shortly. Also, our common sense measure to try and keep firearms out of the hands of folks who have been deemed by a judge to be mentally unstable was a little more controversial than I would have imagined. Unfortunately, at this time, most conversations involving the Second Amendment seem to produce more heat than light. As always, I appreciate your thoughts.

Last week, we also struck a modest blow for governmental efficiency in approving the Department of Administration Restructuring Bill. This was pretty much the same bill passed by the House last year that eliminates the Budget and Control Board and moves those duties under the governor. We have a number of duplicative services that are eliminated by this long sought after reform. There is almost no resistance to this effort outside the statehouse. Let’s hope this is the year.

Ways and Means once again passed the Angel Investors Bill. This will, if passed, expand tax credits for angel investors who place capital in smaller enterprises with explosive growth potential. It targets the credits to particular investments such as biotech and IT. For me, it is another power tool in our economic development toolbox.

Twenty years ago, our ethics laws were some of the most stringent and effective in the nation. Today, our entire ethics regime is antiquated and ineffective. This was going to be the year we got in, did the hard work, and produced an ethics framework to support and maintain the clean political landscape South Carolinians have said they wanted. We did put in a great deal of time on the matter. Judiciary Committee did solid work, but the bill we currently have, after all the horse-trading and compromises, is a disappointment to this legislator. The bill, in my view, is watered down, and does not adequately reflect either the work, which went into its construction, or the goals it aimed to accomplish. With the enforcement feature lacking seriousness, among other shortcomings, I will have difficulty supporting the bill, as written. The amount of money currently washing over the political landscape is mind-boggling. The portals through which these dollars enter the system are numerous and largely opaque and more are proliferating every day. A half loaf may be better than nothing, but this bill is barely a slice.

Returning to the home front, thanks to all who came out for the May River Clean Up and the following festivities. As always, Kim Jones and her crew from the Town of Bluffton did a great job, as did the folks from Experience Green. Also, thanks to the Carson Cottages for the venue after the clean up. The May River is the one thing in Bluffton about which everyone is in agreement: It is a treasure.

Finally, Mary and I heard the news of the passing of our friend Nancy Roe, with profound sadness. Nancy and her husband Bill have been our good friends for many years and were very active both on the social and the political scene locally and throughout the southeast. Nancy always carried herself with dignity and class; she will be missed.

As the session winds down, I will keep you up to date on what has passed, what has become law, and what it all may mean.