Wednesday, October 30, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

Bluffton lost one of its patriarchs this last week with the passing of my friend Jerry Reeves III. Jerry was a brilliant man whose business savvy brought prosperity to his family, and whose good works changed the economic and social landscape of Bluffton. In truth, it was the example of this fine man that helped me understand the crucial importance of good, decent jobs to the stability of families, which has formed the basis of much of my work in the legislature.


The Reeves’ family business, Resort Services (RSI), has provided employment for literally hundreds of our neighbors over the years. His efforts in founding and nurturing The Children’s Center has allowed his employees and many, many other parents the security of knowing their children were in a secure, safe environment during the work day. Among Jerry and Mary Reeves’ many contributions to the community, the impact of RSI and The Children’s Center is probably the most profound. Our love, gratitude and admiration for this genuinely humble and kind man will always endure.


Shifting from the inspirational to the mundane, I want to remind you that your credit monitoring, provided free of charge by the state, is moving from Experian to a new company, CS Identity Corp. This move requires that you sign up with the new company as soon as possible. You need to go to www.scidprotection.com or call 855-880-2743 and enroll in the new program.


You may remember that last year, the Department of Revenue data system was hacked. This resulted in the loss of financial and personal information of millions of individual South Carolinians and businesses. We hired Experian on something of an emergency basis as we worked through the system to assess the damage. This year, we went through our normal acquisition process to choose the contractor to provide this service. For their own reasons, Experian did not respond to our Request for Proposals, but did begin to market their services to folks on the list of people and businesses they were hired to protect. The resulting confusion resulted in literally hundreds of calls to this office, to which we patiently responded.


Again, I would like to apologize for the lack of proper security in our handling of your tax information. We fell short of the mark and we will make up for it the best way we can for as long as we can. I urge you to email or call the new contractor as soon as possible and sign up. A gap in your coverage is not a risk you want to take.


Don’t forget the 6th Annual Taste of Waddell is coming up Sunday the 10th of November from 3 to 7 p.m. A little over a week away and sure to be a big party for a good cause. Chef Mike Sigler will be cooking his signature shrimp dishes, “Admiral” Al Stokes will be conducting tours of the facility and this representative, along with Representative Weston Newton, will be on hand for some news on the upcoming session and the prospects for the Waddell Center’s financial future.


Finally, Mary and I have signed on as sponsors for the Bluffton Historical Society’s Christmas Gala at the Colcock-Teel House in Old Town Bluffton. Tamela Maxim is chairwoman of the committee putting this fabulous event together, along with Maureen Richards, Executive Director of the Heyward House. Expect excellent food by Reeves Catering, lots of fun and prizes, as well as a semi-spooky walk down the nature trail to the Oyster Factory Park. Save the date: Friday, December 13th, and remember to take out your period costume and make sure your gaiters are clean and your bustle is plumped.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

The 9th Annual Historic Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival finished with a flourish as thousands of people mobbed the Old Town for the juried fine arts event along Calhoun St. Even with some iffy weather, the event was a roaring success. Again, we all need to give Mary O’Neill and her staff a big pat on their collective back for pulling off another stellar event.


I had the privilege of sharing a boat with my friends, County Councilman Tabor Vaux, and my statehouse colleague Representative Weston Newton. The Blessing of the Fleet was an exciting event on the opening Sunday of the festival. It was made doubly pleasurable by the fact that my good friend Al Stokes, manager of the Waddell Mariculture Center, was the honorary Admiral of the Fleet. Al is the consummate example of a high-achieving state employee, whose competence and dedication protects our state’s local waters, and by extension, makes our local fishing industry as prosperous as it is.


Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Dockmaster Chris Story from Wilson Landing for providing Palmetto Bluff’s green Hinckley power launch for our benefit. The boat was probably the most beautiful craft I have ever seen up close.
When Tabor, Weston and I get together, the conversation is usually about what we can do better for Bluffton, and Sunday afternoon was no exception. We each have active constituent service programs and talk with a lot of local folks. We mostly compare notes of what we are hearing and how the different levels of government can work most effectively together.


In high school civics, we all learned about federalism, how each level has different responsibilities and different tools to service those responsibilities. The truth is, there are multiple, overlapping jurisdictions where the state and the county share functions, or towns and counties and even property owners associations (POAs) share in different service obligations. Consequently, when Tabor, Weston and I get together, we are talking about how we can work together to achieve what the folks have requested, by coordinating the efforts of state and county. It is how we can get the most done for our respective constituents. It is why Congressman Sanford has his local meetings at my restaurant in the Promenade. Federalism is an ideal, but is flexible enough to accommodate a level of rational creativity.


One important difference between Washington and South Carolina has to do with the way we do our respective budgets. In my view, the federal government might learn from us on this one particular. In South Carolina, we are constitutionally required to have a balanced budget. We cannot run a deficit. Obviously, this is not the case with the federal government. In my view, our state has it right. We would benefit from a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget, perhaps with exceptions for times of national calamity, such as world wars or economic collapse. The usual business of the federal government would benefit from the discipline of spending no more than is taken in. It would put a stop to a lot of mischief, as well as have a calming and regularizing effect on the capital markets.


I think of all the hundreds of hours I and my colleagues spend on Ways and Means Committee, doing the hard work of prioritizing our spending to conform to our revenue. I wish our federal colleagues were forced to make those decisions as well. I have said in this space that we fund what we care about, what is important to our constituents. It is hard because we only fund what we agree is most essential. The feds are currently denied the benefit of that disciple.


Perhaps, one day the wisdom of federalism will be bottom up, rather than top down.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

For those of you who called the legislative office this week and didn’t get an immediate callback, I apologize. Mary and I headed south for the week to meet our children for their Fall school break. The office fielded over 300 constituent contacts for the week, and they were just swamped. We are back and our turnaround time will be getting back to normal as we work through the backlog. As important as constituent service is to me, as well as to all the members of our delegation, family time has to be respected. Our kids are very nearly full-fledged adults and we want to enjoy every moment with them we possibly can.


This past Sunday was the kickoff for the Historic Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival. Once again, Mary O’Neill and her crew did a fantastic job of rounding up an entire week of cool events and exhibitions for visitors and locals alike. Sunday began with the Friends of Bluffton Artists Showcase. It was a very well attended event with what appeared to me to be a ton of business being transacted. Low-key and casual does not mean amateurish art. On the contrary, it is just astounding to me that we are blessed with the number and variety of art makers and galleries in Old Town Bluffton.


The Blessing of the Fleet and the boat parade was also on Sunday afternoon. My pal, Al Stokes, the head of the Waddell Mariculture Center, was the Admiral of the Fleet. He was in the first boat, which was piloted by another good friend, Larry Toomer, who, along with his wife Tina, own and operate the Bluffton Oyster Company. Al Stokes has been such an important part of the effort to support the local fishing industry, as well as doing the science that assures the water quality in our rivers and estuaries is as good as it can be. It does my heart good to see long-time state employees, like Al, get the recognition they deserve for the superb job they do, often without the financial support from the state that would seem appropriate for such a world-class operation.


Fortunately, the Waddell Mariculture Center has been pretty much adopted by the local sport fishing community, led by Sport fishing Club president Dave Harter. Dave created an organization called “Friends of Waddell” many years ago to essentially raise private dollars for Waddell, as this representative assured that there was some meaningful state support, even during the Great Recession. Now, due to redistricting, Waddell is in the new House District 120, which is fortunately represented by my friend and colleague, Representative Weston Newton. As many of you know, Weston was the chairman of Beaufort County Council for over a decade and is intimately familiar with the profound contribution that the Waddell Center makes to the local economy and the local ecology.


What I’m leading up to is this: The primary fundraiser for the Waddell Mariculture Center is the “Taste of Waddell.” This year the event is being held on Sunday, November 10th, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the house on the high bluff overlooking the Colleton/Okatie River, inside the Waddell Center property, near the end of Sawmill Creek Road in Greater Bluffton. There will be fantastic local seafood prepared by a wonderful local chef/restauranteur, with remarks by Weston and I, having to do specifically with the state renovation dollars desperately needed by the facility. Hint: The news is good. For definitive information on the event, email Dave Harter at daveh@hargray.com. This is going to be the social highlight of the season, especially for those who care about local seafood, local fishing, or the purity of the local marine waters.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

I want to thank all of you who came out last weekend for the Beer and Brats event at the Promenade. This superb festival is the Bluffton version of Octoberfest (albeit a little early) and was attended by close to a thousand folks. It was easy to see that everyone was having a good time, enjoying our early fall afternoon, excellent food and a good and varied supply of the highlighted beverage, as well as the variety of live music. Also, I’m happy to say there was no shortage of parking, no untoward behavior, and no complaints from the neighborhood residents.


We are proud of our capability to host lively events. In fact, we planned the layout of the Promenade for just such forms of civic entertainment. Many of you may remember the numerous workshops we held to involve the community in the planning phase of our project. Many of those sessions were hardly lovefests, but in the end, the importance of the Promenade in terms of size, location and proposed uses mandated serious community input. That input is largely responsible for the fact that we can handle things as smoothly as we did with Beer and Brats.


Next week, we have another big shindig with the Bark in the Park, brought to you by the good folks putting together the much-anticipated Bluffton Dog Park. This pet-centric event will feature children and dog games, pet related vendors, pet rescue groups, live music, low-cost dog and cat vaccinations, great food, and a silent auction. All your contributions are tax deductible. You are also invited to bring your well-behaved dogs on a lease, so they can join in the fun.


Speaking of fun, we at the Promenade are about to kick-off “Fridays After Five.” We are inviting all the folks from Greater Bluffton, Hardeeville, Sun City and Hilton Head to join us for these family-friendly, end of the week celebrations. There will be bands playing music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s and the restaurants will be running Fridays After Five specials. We hope to bring our communities together in the spirit of Bluffton neighborliness. Watch this space for more details.


At least twice a year, the Bluffton contingent of your statehouse delegation meets informally with the Sun City Republican Club. For years it was your representative and Senator Tom Davis. This year, we were joined by my pal, Representative Weston Newton, as he also speaks for a part of Sun City. This year was something of a tag-team affair as at least 100 members of the club asked questions that were fielded by the one of our delegation most qualified to speak to the question. I was able to clear up some issues with our golf cart efforts, as well as some others of my projects. Tom handled constitutional issues and the questions dealing with the Senate side. There were a number of questions and suggestions dealing with ethics and transparency, which were ably answered by Weston. In fact, Representative Newton, even with his brief tenure in the statehouse, has become among the most competent and respected members of Judiciary Committee in this complex, important, and timely area of legislation.


As always, we probably learned at least as much as we imparted to the audience. I think they were impressed with the fact that their delegation had such a broad spectrum of expertise and experience. I was impressed with the quality of the questions and suggestions, as well as how much fun it is to speak before a group of politically engaged and informed residents.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

Although my last column was factually correct with regard to the information on the state funded identity theft program, I had some lingering doubts as to whether I had given the full picture of this large, ongoing project. Consequently, I had correspondence, both verbal and in writing, with members of the Ways and Means staff, Department of Revenue, and most authoritatively, with Speaker Bobby Harrell. I’m afraid it’s one of those “good news/bad news” situations.


Here’s the deal: The good news is that we have, provisionally, a new vendor for your free identity theft protection. The bad news is that the original problem is still some distance from solution. The reason is that the state has a number of databases with differing ways of securing information. We are seeking a comprehensive solution that will involve all our data. The requirement is complex and will take some time to accomplish. In the interim, we are committed to protect you from the consequences of our myriad short-term fixes that each department cobbled together. At the end of this process, we will be a modern, secure repository for the data we, of necessity, need to possess in order to do our job of accurately and fairly computing your taxes.


The good news is that the state has selected a new vendor to supply the services we have committed to. We have arrived at this decision by our normal procurement process, with all the safeguards and protections built into the system. The new vendor is CS Identity Corporation (CSID). Absent any protest during the mandatory 10-day protest period, they will become the new vendor effective October 4th.
Even if you did not sign up for the free (to you) monitoring program, you are still eligible to receive this standard coverage. You will receive the information on how to sign up for this free coverage as it becomes available.


Here are the services CSID is contractually committed to provide beginning October 24th:


1. Daily trans-union carrier monitoring
2. Change of address monitoring
3. Payday loan monitoring
4. Criminal records monitoring
5. Social Security number trace
6. Cyber monitoring
7. Sex offender monitoring
8. Child identity monitoring


In addition, and most importantly in my thinking, is a $1 million identity theft insurance policy, per person, and a full-service identity restoration service. Eligible South Carolina businesses can also sign up for free real time alerting of compromised credentials, malware instances, and monitoring of information concerning business main names, credentials and static IP addresses.


While my colleagues and I in the legislature continue to work with state agencies to establish new data security protocols, you can be assured that the protection of your data is our highest priority. As we work through this laborious process, we could use, and would appreciate, your help spreading the word that CSID is the new company providing these no-cost services to you. Please tell your neighbors and friends to look for the forthcoming sign-up information if you are not presently signed up. Also, if you are solicited by Experian, the former vendor, to sign up, please politely decline, as they will no longer be our vendor of these services. I can say this with good confidence as my information comes from the most unimpeachable source, South Carolina House of Representatives Speaker, Bobby Harrell.


Finally, please plan your family activities around the upcoming Arts and Seafood Festival from October 13-20, in and around Old Town Bluffton. Additionally, don’t forget the Taste of Waddell from 3 to 7 p.m. on November 10, at the Waddell Mariculture Center at the end of Sawmill Creek Road in Greater Bluffton.