Wednesday, July 2, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

Last Thursday, Rep. Weston Newton and I, along with Sen. Tom Davis, had a great outing with the Sun City Republican Club. As usual, club leader Jim Lee and his wife made us feel welcome. So welcome, in fact, that the socializing almost overtook our brief remarks. I have a long history with these good folks, but it still kind of amazes me that this Sun City community is home to so many well-informed and active residents. It was no surprise that Tom, Weston and I left the event having learned a lot more than we were able to impart. Good friends, lively conversation, and strong conservative support—what’s not to like about that?


The meeting was a time for a little policy discussion, just a modest amount of anticipation of what’s coming next session, combined with a recitation of a few of the “wins” scored by your Beaufort/Jasper delegation during the recent session. With this legislator on House Ways and Means Committee and chairman of Ways and Means Provisos subcommittee, and Sen. Davis on Senate Finance Committee, many of our wins were measured in tax dollars repatriated back to our neighborhoods.


In the immediate Sun City neighborhood, the Technical College of the Lowcountry (TCL) got a nice bump in appropriation dollars. This is part of our long-time emphasis on preparing the next generation of highly skilled workers for the good jobs flowing to South Carolina. A couple of TCL board members were in the audience, beaming approval.


Once again, the hard work of your delegation, combined with the persistent efforts of Chancellor Jane Upshaw and Vice-Chancellor Lynn McGee, moved the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) a couple of notches closer to fiscal parity with comparable members of our university system. I consider this a win as well. The reason we are not up to full parity after so much concerted effort has nothing to do with merit or productivity, and very much to do with some inside baseball machinations that don’t cast an entirely positive light on our statehouse process. If you ask, I’ll share it in private, but it’s not for publication (just yet).


After being disappointed last year and vetoed this year, the Waddell Mariculture Center in Greater Bluffton finally got the renovation dollars necessary to bring this world-class marine research station up to code. With millions of gallons of salt water flowing through the pumps and valves of this extremely productive installation, it is almost miraculous they have been able to keep the physical plant going, and still do their day-to-day mission for as long as they have. Al Stokes and his crew have done a great deal with not very much for many years.


While I was mystified by the veto of these crucial funds, we were all heartened by the statewide support for the overturning of this particularly imprudent veto. Fishermen will put up with a lot of foolishness, but there is a limit. House and Senate members around the state got full inboxes for the week between the veto and the slam-dunk override.


Finally, the birthday celebration of our nation is in a couple of days. There will be fireworks and cookouts, along with more than a few patriotic celebrations, some of which may involve adult beverages. Please don’t drink and drive. I can’t be any plainer than that. Sheriff Tanner and Bluffton Chief Reynolds will have all their folks on the roads looking to keep us safe from ourselves and from each other. At the very least, a DUI is expensive and embarrassing.


Have a happy 4th of July, but please be safe.