Wednesday, December 17, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

Last week, I gave you a preliminary report on the pre-session and a few of the committee assignments of members of our delegation. It is truly a big deal that both Rep. Shannon Erickson and I are members of Ways and Means Committee. Our primary job is writing the budget, the spending and investment plan for our state’s foreseeable future.


I doubt seriously if Beaufort County will ever again be anything but a donor county, as far as receiving in services and infrastructure value close to what we contribute in taxes. We are, in truth, a relatively wealthy area, and there is merit in lending a hand to those communities less blessed than ours. However, there was a time when we were taxed in an outrageously disproportionate fashion, with almost no recourse. The reason was because our population was small and our delegation, even with some seniority, couldn’t compete with the population centers. Much of that has changed and we are well positioned to contribute our fair share, but also to receive a more realistic return on our investments with the state.


My subcommittee assignment on Ways and Means is Parks, Recreation and Tourism. This is the culmination of several years of effort on my part, and of legislative allies who are familiar with my skills and inclinations.


Our part of the Lowcountry is home to one of the finest resorts in the world at Palmetto Bluff. They are consistently rated in the top five in the country and top ten on the planet. Bluffton and Beaufort are both travel magazine favorites, recognized as funky, off-the-beaten-path little towns to either visit or places to retire. Our natural assets, arts and cultural attractions, and great weather could all use more of a megaphone. “Parks, Recreation, and Tourism” is a large part of what we are about. It gives us a great quality of life, as well as supports a ton of jobs in various forms of the hospitality industry.


The most successful of our state parks, year in and year out, Hunting Island State Park, also supports many of our less visited parks. Hunting Island needs a little help with its beaches from time to time. We now have a seat at that table. I guess you could say I’m pleased with my assignment.


If you read Rep. Weston Newton’s Sunday column in this space, you know that he is also moving up the ranks. He was returned to Judiciary Committee, but also was assigned to the prestigious Constitutional Laws Subcommittee, along with Judiciary chairman Rep. Greg Dellaney, and House Majority Leader Rep. Bruce Bannister.


Weston was also asked by Speaker Jay Lucas to serve on the newly created Legislative Oversight Committee. This important body will do a programmatic analysis of each agency of the state over the next seven years. Not only are we proud that Weston is one of ours, but those of who know this hard-working sophomore lawmaker are confident that his efforts will not only make our state government more efficient, but also more transparent and more accountable to the taxpayers.


It is a week before Christmas. In the spirit of giving and in profound gratitude for all we have been given, let me suggest this: Join Mary and I in support of two of our fine local charities. Send a check to either or both: Bluffton Self Help, Donations Dept. Box 2420, Bluffton, SC 29910; and/or Bluffton--Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine, Box 2653, Bluffton, SC 29910.


Think of it as a birthday present in the name of the fellow who told us to “love thy neighbor.”