Wednesday, December 10, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

Organizational session for the General Assembly started this week and once again, our lovely portion of the Lowcountry has advanced toward the front of the legislative pack. One of my reasons in running for state office many years ago was to try and bring Beaufort County out of the political wilderness. We paid taxes in such disproportion to our meager influence; we were something of a piggy bank for the upper parts of the state.


Those days, thankfully, are long in the past. With the appointment of our delegation colleague, Rep. Shannon Erickson, to Ways and Means Committee, we now have two members, including this legislator, seated among the folks who prioritize our state’s spending and investment.


Originally, Ways and Means was organized to potentially have one member from each of the 46 counties. Over the years, as tax receipts gradually increased from the coastal counties and receded from many of the inland areas, more coastal members populated this all-important committee. With Shannon’s appointment, I believe each coastal county, including Beaufort County, now has two seats on Ways and Means. We will not fail to properly appreciate this enhanced responsibility.


Also, our colleague Rep. Weston Newton has been returned to Judiciary Committee, after distinguishing himself by his contribution to their work product in his first full, two-year session. His administrative experience as the ten-plus year chairman of Beaufort County Council was expected to give him valuable insight into how state legislation plays out at the local level, and he did not disappoint.


In fact, without stealing Weston’s thunder, there is a new, important committee being formed, on which Rep. Newton will sit. The purpose and powers of the new committee, I will leave for Weston to articulate. Suffice to say the leadership, myself included, has great expectations for the sophomore lawmaker from District 120.


Another member making a good impression is Rep. Jeff Bradley, recently elected to represent Hilton Head Island and District 123. Jeff and his vivacious wife Anne were among the more popular folks during the social portions of the orientation process. With Jeff’s solid civic portfolio, and his skills in finance, I would be surprised if he is not appointed to Education Committee. He has good ideas on how we can reform our public education system so that South Carolina young people leave high school not only with a diploma, or its equivalent, but also have a clear pathway to training and education and a place in the 21st century workforce.


On another pleasant note, my good friend Joanie Heyward was at the statehouse for a visit this week. If towns had ambassadors, Joanie would certainly hold that office in Bluffton. She not only can tell our story better than anyone, she also, through her many civic contributions, makes the story a lot more interesting and attractive.


Finally, it is my privilege to be able to adjourn the first day of session in honor of Ms. Jenny Bedenbaugh, the recently deceased mother of our friend, Lisa Sulka. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Mayor Sulka and her family. South Carolina is not made up of only smiling faces and beautiful places, but also some really good, decent people. Lisa’s mom was one of the best.


Once again, the holidays are here, with kids out of school and on the streets and pathways. Please watch out for them. For those older kids who will be attending parties and socializing with friends, please have the talk about the designated driver and playing it safe with alcohol. It is just what good parents do.