Wednesday, June 12, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

As the session comes to a close, I will begin to recap what was accomplished, what was carried over until next year, and what each is likely to mean. This will take a few columns, as I try to intersperse local items of interest into the mix. A steady diet of legislative detail is not in the best interest of steady readership.


If there was anything on our legislative agenda this session that might qualify as an emergency, it had to do with the reforms to our electoral system. We all remember the removal of hundreds of qualified and motivated candidates from the ballots last time around. It was truly a political debacle, which will impact elected councils for years to come. This procedural fiasco diminished the quality and the integrity of the system we use to choose our leaders, as well as having the appearance of an incumbent protection scheme. The error was so egregious; the necessity for reform was accepted across the political spectrum. The proof is that we actually passed and sent to the governor, a bipartisan, common-sense bill that she could sign. And we did it in an appropriately timely manner.


The reform removes the filing of statements of economic interest from election law and places it under ethics law. It applies to both incumbents and new candidates alike. The procedure for county candidates was also completely revised by the legislation so that involvement of party officials was no longer required. All necessary filings, attestations, and paying of fees are now conducted through government offices. The law also revises the rules parties must follow to nominate candidates by convention.


The general rationale we followed in this reform was that the fewer obstacles candidates face to get on the ballot, the better. By comparison, the new system is far superior to the old, both in terms of simplicity and fairness. That said, I personally believe the parties have a legitimate role in vetting candidates seeking to run under that party’s banner. My experience has been that party officials, in Beaufort County at least, have historically been well informed and very helpful in these matters.


In response to your wishes, we have also put together the first official early voting program for our state. H.3176 mandates that each county must establish one early voting center, which must be supervised by election commission employees and located in a public building within the county seat or centrally located in the county. The early voting period is nine days, excluding Sundays, before the election. The legislation also stipulates that election be held on the following days: the second Tuesday in March; the second Tuesday in June; the second Tuesday in September; or the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It also ends the practice of fusion voting, which is running for office under two or more parties, depending on how many may have nominated you.


On a more social note, Shag and Drag is back for its third annual iteration in Old Town Bluffton, this coming Saturday, June 15th. Beginning around 4 pm on Calhoun Street, there will be a free classic car show where you can get up close with all those cool cars you wished for as a teenager. From 6 to 9, the action moves to the Promenade for dancing and toe-tapping to the music of City Lights, a show band from Columbia playing the best of rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and beach music. Please join Mary and I, along with a few thousand of our closest friends, for this fun evening. To reserve a table, call 815-2472. Summer fun in Old Town Bluffton!