Wednesday, January 8, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

As you read this, it is less than a week before “show time” at the statehouse. Our constitutionally mandated season is from the second Tuesday in January until the first Thursday in June. Officially, that is what your “part-time” representative is obligated to serve. The reasoning, when this was formulated, was to involve as many people as possible in the governmental process. It theoretically opened the door for a broader range of participation than was previously the case.

Unfortunately, we have been in “catch up” mode for the entire 12 years of my service. This is not because we did not have good or effective representation before my tenure. On the contrary, we had a number of very dedicated public servants, but our portion of the Lowcountry was considered something of a backwater, as well as not convenient to Columbia. There was a giant lag between the time when Beaufort County became a fast-growing and economically important part of our state, and when that realization dawned upon the political establishment. Fortunately, the time when our delegation was not taken with appropriate seriousness is long past.

In fact, with redistricting, the Beaufort/Jasper delegation is finding a role as a balancing force between the traditional Lowcountry and Upstate powers, a place this legislator finds filled with excellent possibility. It also implies that we find, each year, a coherent and persuasive agenda that moves forward the interests of our constituents, as well as the interests of the state as a whole. This is one of the reasons why we have spent much of the off-season in consultation with key local constituent groups, and also those who might share those interests in other parts of the state.

In a parallel process, our constituent service is all about making the machinery of the state responsive to the needs of the individual. If you are having difficulty with securing a state provided service, your representative is the person to contact. Part of our mandate is to know that one person at MUSC who can find your child a bed and the appropriate treatment he or she requires. If you’re trying to open a restaurant and you think you are getting the bureaucratic runaround on the liquor license, your representative can usually help, either with securing proper paperwork or locating a decision maker at the state. Our role is to not only to make the rules, but also to help make the rules work as intended. Usually, it’s a matter of facilitating communication.

As we approach the kick-off, the meeting schedule is compressing and my time is just filled to capacity, I want to ask a favor. When you have a problem, please put all the information in an email and send it to me, or to your representative if you don’t reside in District 118. If there are questions, we will give you a call for clarification. If you have a good suggestion, please send it via email. I will make certain the proper person or committee reviews it.

This is all somewhat counterintuitive to me as I would much rather speak with folks face to face, make my notes, then pass the notes along to the proper administrator or another representative for action. Unfortunately, this is more appropriate to the time when Beaufort County was truly a backwater. For me, there is always a conflict between the old way of personal service, and the new way of low-cost efficiency. As a tax cutting conservative, I must be efficient in my job. That doesn’t mean that when you visit the office, I won’t make you a good cup of coffee and hear your story. Last year, we served a boatload of coffee and heard a lot of good stories. Efficiency is not everything.