Wednesday, October 8, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

For the last few months, we have been inundated with media coverage of alleged domestic violence committed by professional athletes, among others. As a sports fan, it’s so disappointed to see these gifted young millionaires acting in such a manner. This is especially so, because there are so many young men who idolize and emulate these athletes, and many feel they can do no wrong.


It is also a matter of deep concern for me that our state, so great in many ways, is in the grip of a domestic violence epidemic.


Just today, I got a most appreciated email from a Sun City friend, Nancy Berry, who forwarded a timely reminder that once again, Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA) will be holding their Race4Love on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th. This is an important fund/awareness raiser for these good folks. Put it on your calendar. Also, go to their web site, www.codalowcountry.org, and take a look at what they do to help those in this awful situation, as well as their programs to prevent domestic violence. If you are like me, you will probably want to send them a donation whether you are a runner or not.


Another good friend, Jim Lee, is passing the leadership torch of the Sun City Republican Club, after two extremely productive years. I recently met with this group and was amazed at the turnout. There were folks there from all walks of life who were interested in hearing details of our Jasper County activities. There is a general optimism that when the voices of the stakeholders are truly heard, our Jasper neighbors will see big changes and big improvement.


One of the reasons that Jim’s meetings are always so successful is that he and his lovely wife always make everyone feel welcome, not to mention that there is also a seat for everyone, as well.


One of my legislative colleagues and friends is Representative Bill Taylor from Aiken. From time to time, we will work in concert on columns, as well as legislation. One of those pieces of legislation last session was the Ethics Reform Bill. This past June, this landmark bill, years in the making, was on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. However, on the very last day of session, it died in the Senate for lack of a necessary final vote. It was a crushing disappointment.


Under intense pressure from your legislator and other members of leadership, the House continues to lead on ethics reform. The House Speaker Pro Tempore, Jay Lucas, in his role as acting Speaker of the House, appointed a 22 member Bi-Partisan House Ethics Reform Committee to review and strengthen the ethics legislation to be submitted next session, which starts the second Tuesday of January.


Representative Derham Cole, a Republican from Spartanburg, will chair the committee. The committee will be organized around three sub-committees: Campaign Finance; Enforcement and Investigation; and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).


I had a conversation with Acting Speaker Lucas, in which I strongly urged him to appoint my Beaufort County colleague, Weston Newton, to the committee. I was prepared to go to the mat on this one, but Jay agreed immediately. In fact, Weston had distinguished himself in the Judiciary Committee debates on this matter last session to the extent that he was also appointed as chairman of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Sub-committee.


How important is this? In the words of my friend, Jay Lucas: “This comprehensive reform effort is bigger than any single issue or any single lawmaker. At the end of the day, true ethics reform should ensure that all elected officials are held accountable and instill an unshakable public trust in our system of government.”