Wednesday, April 16, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

May first is Crossover Day at the General Assembly. This means that bills not conveyed from one chamber to the other before 1 May face a higher bar for consideration than those before crossover. We also are in two weeks of recess, so this past week was a deadline of sorts for measures to be enacted this year. Fortunately, we upped our game a bit and got a number of matters passed and on the way.

We in the House passed “Emma’s Law” earlier in the session, with the Senate recently following suit and sending the legislation to the governor for signature. As you may remember, Emma’s Law is named for six-year-old Emma Longstreet, who was killed by a drunk driver two years ago in Lexington County. With the governor’s signature, the law will mandate that suspected drunk drivers who blow a .15 on the Breathalyser and are later convicted of DUI will be required to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for a year. The device will not allow the vehicle to start if the driver has been drinking alcohol. With several other features also included, this law is a signal that South Carolina is finally getting serious in a big way in dealing with the problem of drunk driving.

This legislator and your delegation have been working toward this goal for years. We have had much encouragement and support from the community, none more consistent or more fervent than from my friend Lou Herzog from Sun City. Lou, we finally got it done.

Continuing in the traffic safety area, the House passed a statewide ban on texting while driving. I have heard from so many of you over the years, which served to reinforce my personal experience in that many times a day, I see drivers unaware of light changes because they are texting, or they swerve to miss oncoming traffic because they were distracted by texting.

A number of municipalities and counties have passed anti-texting measures. This made it imperative that we pass a statewide ban, as opposed to a patchwork of local ordinances, to deal with this safety hazard. The current bill treats texting pretty much like failure to wear seatbelts. You will be cited, but the police cannot confiscate your phone. There is ample science to support a texting ban, but there is no clear consensus on how to deal comprehensively with distracted driving. I believe this is a good bill, which should become law.

Also, as you read this column, our beautiful part of the Lowcountry is absolutely teeming with visitors. The 46th Annual RBC Heritage is under way on Hilton Head Island, which will serve to multiply the number of visitors we are used to seeing. This is my annual request that each of us locals be patient and tolerant of folks who may be lost, may be jet lagged, or may simply be unaware that they are driving 25 mph in the left lane of Highway 278. These visitors are a momentary and trivial annoyance, which pales in comparison to the number of jobs in our community they directly support. Please be nice, be helpful, and be grateful that they are here to appreciate our beautiful place. Next year, they may be your neighbors.

Finally, please remember that the 14th Annual May River Clean-up is Saturday, 26 April at the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park from 9 till 12. You may remember that your Bluffton statehouse delegation, Rep. Newton and I, have challenged all public officials from Bluffton and Beaufort County to come out and get this done. Their response has been fantastic, so we expand the challenge to include all of Bluffton, Sun City, Hardeeville, and Hilton Head. See you there.