Wednesday, October 29, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

There were a ton of good folks at the Promenade last Saturday morning for the Alzheimers Walk. Each year, it gets larger and involves more and more people. I believe that explosive growth is because an ever expanding number of families are affected by the various dementias afflicting our older population. Our family has not been spared by this expanding tragedy, and I know many of you are struggling with this as well.


When you look at the numbers, and their nearly exponential increase, it is a frightening trend line. Not only can we ill afford to lose the wisdom and experience embedded in those lost memories, the projected medical costs are breathtaking. We are fortunate to have the Alzheimer’s Association, and their hundreds of thousands of volunteers to raise awareness and funds to support the science that will defeat this scourge.


By now, most of you have read the disposition of the Bobby Harrell matter. When this first arose, I assumed it was just more political mischief. Especially since our delegation was working so hard to get some meaningful ethics legislation on the books, and meeting with quiet opposition that seemed to suggest the status quo was OK. Well, apparently, the status quo was not OK. As I learned more about the case, my feeling went from embarrassment to bitter disappointment. In truth, the former speaker had been good to Beaufort County, but there was apparently a level of persistent wrongdoing that just can’t be condoned.


If there is anything that might be regarded as a silver lining in this distressing affair, it is the fact that the prospects for real ethics legislation are now very strong. Because of his good work on the ethics legislation last session from his seat on Judiciary Committee, the new speaker, Jay Lucas has appointed my friend, Representative Weston Newton to the Ethics Study Committee as chairman of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) subcommittee. Weston will be the delegation’s point person on the ethics bill legislative process. I’m certain he will be just as gracious in success as he was pointedly candid in defeat last session.


I want to remind my friends in Jasper County that the first of the meetings to take public comment on the Jasper School Board redistricting will be Wednesday, the 29th of October at Ridgeland High School at 6 p.m. This will be followed the next Wednesday at the same time at Hardeeville High, and the next Wednesday at the Jasper County Government building.


We will have reapportionment guru Bobby Bowers, from the S.C. Budget and Control Board, as our expert advisor on how these things are done and what criteria must apply. We want to hear from residents and especially school parents on how they want this important task to be handled, and what is most important to them. Judge Gergel has given the legislature until the first of March of next year to pass a plan or the courts will impose a plan. Politics being what it is, we may not make the deadline for passage, but we would like to have ample public comment to submit to the court to aid in the ruling. This is your time to speak. I promise the rooms will be large enough and there will be a chair for everyone. See you there.


Finally, the upcoming election will decide a number of important issues, but none is more important than the referendum to allow Beaufort County to borrow $20 million to continue the good work of the Beaufort County Rural and Critical Lands Preservation Program. This growth control and land preservation tool is nationally recognized as one of the best of its kind. Please do your part to protect our environment and enhance our economy.