Wednesday, July 16, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

I really appreciate all the calls and emails about the last few columns. I know there can be a little confusion with what the House passes, especially early in the session, and what ultimately becomes law. Each year, after the session is over, before we really start getting ready for next year, I try to give you a rundown of what was accomplished, why it was configured the way it was, and what it means for our neighborhood.

Today, I’d like to talk a little about the service you get from the state. Whether you are a restaurant that gets inspected periodically, a taxpayer who might have a complex tax situation, or any other citizen dealing with the state bureaucracy. If you get bad or indifferent service, I need to hear about it. Conversely, if your experience is good and your service is outstanding, I want to hear the details of that as well.

It might interest you to know that I originally ran for the statehouse at the urging of my wife, Mary. We had various businesses and the state was just eating our lunch with paperwork, much of it either silly or redundant. Mary is a successful businessperson in her own right. She observed that the only way we were going to get away from this paper chase was to have more of a business-friendly representative in the statehouse. That was over a dozen years ago, and I believe we have done good work in eliminating superfluous regulation, as well as the reams of questionable paperwork.

I’ll give you an example of how this used to work. Around 2008, I began getting calls from my friends in Sun City with issues concerning Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS). There was a couple in Beaufort having trouble with adoptive issues. As the complaints began to mount, not only here, but in other areas, I requested that the Legislative Audit Council take a look. This was a step I took reluctantly, as I knew a number of local DHHS workers, and they were all spoken of very highly by supervisors and clients. As it turned out, the problem was in Columbia with a very few managers.

The audit was done and recommendations made. This was usually the end of the story. This legislator and several others asked for a follow-up several months later. Most, but not all, of the recommendations had been implemented. The problems were less, but not eliminated. In short order, they were all eliminated. If you are interested in seeing for yourself, I have the documents in the office, and like the budget, you can check them out and return them the next day.

While we still have a few problems with DHHS, the new leadership at DHEC has done a superb job of making certain that complaints are reviewed and acted on immediately. We can thank Catherine Templeton for the renewed focus on customer service. My go-to guy at DHEC is the Director of Legislative and Constituent Services, Jonathon Yarborough. Jonathon is a smart man with a tremendous resume, who knows where the levers are to make things happen. Since he took his undergraduate degree at Clemson and his law degree at USC, he is a popular fellow.

By far my favorite state employee for a long time was a restaurant inspector, now retired and living at Alljoy, named Audress Hill. When we owned Shuckers, she was our health inspector. She knew that her job was to protect the public health, and not necessarily to just serve the paperwork. We remember her with fondness and respect.

The takeaway here is: If you have problems with services performed by the state, call me. If you received excellent service and want to comment on your state employee’s good work, call me. We all need to hear both.