Thursday, July 11, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

The 4th of July holiday in Bluffton was, as always, spectacular in every way. The river and sandbar were filled with boaters and mostly well-behaved folks whose boats flew more than a few celebratory flags. The weather was what we expect, with a hit or miss showers here and there. The prevailing attitude was gratitude for living in the greatest country on the planet, as well as being fortunate enough to have found our little jewel of the Lowcountry. Life is good.

The office was a bit crazy with the number of constituent contacts soaring well about the 275 or so average weekly calls and emails we usually receive. The vetoes accounted for a lot of the calls, as did the necessity to explain the whole matter of DHEC and the Certificate of Need Program. We have a somewhat older population in District 118, and there is a lot of interest in how our health care is to be delivered. I will have some comments on the CON program as its trajectory becomes clearer.

There was also a lot of interest in the early voting legislation. We have created a program where you can vote up to nine days before the election, excluding Sundays. Each county must establish one early voting center, which is supervised by Election Commission employees and located in a public building in the county seat or another centrally located place. This legislation requires that the election be conducted on one of the following days: second Tuesday in March; second Tuesday in June; second Tuesday in September; or the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Also, fusion voting is no longer allowed. That means you cannot be on the ticket for more than one party.

Although the Senate did not pass ethics reform, I think it is important to know that the House put in a great deal of good work on this important issue, and passed a strong bill which will be the starting point as we reconvene in January. It is important to know that your delegation was in the leadership on this, with my colleague and friend, Rep. Weston Newton emerging as the voice of common sense on Judiciary Committee.

Another forward-looking feature of the last session was our directing $83 million of automobile sales tax revenue to the Department of Transportation, in a good faith effort to begin the long haul of bringing our state’s roads and bridges up to a good standard by addressing long-deferred maintenance. Those dollars from this pot now directed to the Education Improvement Act (EIA) mandate are not affected.

While I don’t usually get a lot of calls from younger folks, this week was something of an exception. There is a lot of interest from young people now that we have passed a measure where you are allowed to show proof of insurance on a mobile device, not unlike showing a boarding pass at the airport on your I-phone or other mobile device. State government is rarely on the cutting edge of new technology, but in this area, we are making some progress. This is one of my reasons for encouraging younger people to become a part of the political process. While many of us have learned to be semi-competent in the newer technologies, younger folks have grown up with these devices just being a regular part of life. The enormous data hack at the Department of Revenue was a kind of rude awakening to the necessity of taking these things seriously.