April 2015 Update

Rose and I are happy to announce that the Newton clan is reinstalled in our repaired and somewhat renovated home after our nearly catastrophic fire. We are grateful for all the help and good wishes. Our appreciation of our many blessings has never been more vivid or heartfelt.
As these things sometimes happen, firefighters from around the state gathered in Columbia week before last and hosted a lunch for the legislature on the grounds of the statehouse. It gave me an opportunity to personally thank the Bluffton folks for what they did for my family, and for many other local families.
These highly trained professionals routinely enter burning buildings and find and retrieve people who might otherwise not make it. That said, they would much rather teach you how to avoid a fire, or be alerted to a fire by a working smoke alarm, or show you how to get the most out of a fire extinguisher to keep a small fire from becoming a catastrophe.
Later this spring, Representative Herbkersman and I are planning to give our local firefighting men and women an opportunity and a venue, likely the Promenade, to demonstrate proper and effective fire extinguisher use, and what kind of extinguisher should be in your kitchen, or on your boat, or in your shop. It will also give the community an opportunity to not only learn from these brave folks, but to show them that we also appreciate and respect their service and their professionalism.
At the risk of going a little “inside baseball,” I want to share with you a new legislative tool that looks to make your state government more effective and efficient. Since its creation in December 2014, the House Legislative Oversight Committee has been hard at work. We have held three organizational meetings to date. At the first of those meetings, I was elected chairman of the committee, an unexpected honor that both doubled my workload, and multiplied my anticipation at being a part of a process very likely to dramatically increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your state government. There has been talk for years of a more nimble, cost-effective government. This is the first step on the path to that goal.
Over the next seven years, each agency and department of your state government will undergo a programmatic review. Among other things, we will scrutinize their agency goals to see if they are current for today’s needs. Are they meeting their goals, and how do they measure success and by what metrics? The twenty members, divided into five subcommittees, of Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC) are already meeting with their assigned agencies, preparing to receive the detailed information that will guide our inquiries.
No matter how rigorous our review, this process will not achieve its goals unless we can attract and hold public attention and participation. Our system of government thrives or withers commensurate with the degree of participation of “We the People.” To that end, Speaker Jay Lucas will join me in a free webinar, hosted by the State Library to discuss the House LOC process and how you can take an active part. Whether through online surveys, public hearings, or receiving notifications when a particular agency is up for study, we need to hear from you.
The webinar will be held Thursday, April 16, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. The link is: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4740913084986247425. If you can’t attend live, then go to the LOC webpage by going to: www.scstatehouse.gov and clicking on “Citizen’s Interest” tab at the top of the page, then go to “House Legislative Oversight” link.
Don’t forget– Speaker Jay Lucas and Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope will headline the Beaufort County Republican Convention this Saturday, 11 April, from 9 a.m. to noon at Bluffton High School.

Impressions of the 2013 General Assembly Session

The first half of the 2013-14 session of the General Assembly is history and our local delegation did a good job, in my view, of protecting the interests of the local folks, as well as doing the essential business of the state at large.

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We fixed the electoral system so that another debacle, such as we experienced last election, will not happen again. Thanks to the energetic efforts of USCB Chancellor Jane Upshaw, Vice Chancellor Lynn McGee, and USC President Harris Pastides, we were able to secure funding for USCB, on a per student basis, at par with most other students in the USC system. In addition, the Waddell Mariculture Center had its operational funding appropriated as a line-item in the regular budget. The essential renovation dollars will be secured next year as the renovation is in progress, with funds currently in hand, with Al Stokes and his crew being made whole, fiscally speaking, in next year”s budget. It is a priority of your entire House delegation.

I learned much as a freshman legislator. The statehouse is a larger political pond than Beaufort County Council. That said, ten years as Chairman of county council was a huge benefit in the practical experience of creating law that is effective, but not inundated with unintended consequences. Also, as a practicing attorney, I routinely read and understand every word of applicable law, or Just one would be enough to get the buy-detox.com/shop/urine-drug-test-detox-pills job done, but when you have them both working in conjunction with each other, it’s almost too much of a good thing. ruling or judicial commentary on that law, so as to effectively and efficiently represent my clients. Not surprisingly, that habit is of great value in the creation of good law. Both attributes helped to make my contribution to the process more valuable, and more respected, than might be expected from a newcomer.

The one area of my legislative experience that required some adjustment had to do with my family time. Those who know me are aware that I am committed to community service, I am also committed to capably serve my legal clients and practice, but my chief responsibility is to my family. My role as husband and father trumps all else. Thus, when my legislative responsibilities came into conflict with my family commitments, we did what anyone would do, we made adjustments. Instead of a full week of dedicated family vacation time, we combined long weekends of professional obligations, such as Rose”s weekend at Kiawah for South Carolina Bankers Association seminars, with me taking the kids for countless hours on the bike paths or the water slides of Kiawah. Although it isn”t easy, it is important to balance the pressure of legislating or litigating and to focus on the needs of these young folks we have brought into this world. I want to know that when their heads hit the pillow, that we have left nothing undone that day.

Summer vacation is drawing to a close. School supplies stock the shelves and our little ones are amazed that school is just around the corner. As they get older, the life lessons we share will change, as will their questions and needs. Right now, the May River and Myrtle Island are the center of the universe for them. But soon, the larger world will begin to encroach, and adjustments will have to be made once again. Rose and I believe the circle of blessings begins at home, expanding by degree, one small gift at a time.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the State House. . Just because session is out doesn”t mean the work is over. I will be spending the next six months meeting with various civic groups and local citizens to talk about our area”s needs and working on the important legislation that awaits in January. Please don”t hesitate to call or email me with any constituent question or concern. If you would like to contact me or if you would like for me to speak to one of your local groups or clubs, please feel free to contact me at my office, 706-6111, or email me at westonnewton@hargray.com.

District 120 Update

A little over a month into the new session and I am beginning to find a comfortable routine in traveling back and forth between Bluffton and Columbia. We have pretty much worked the bugs out of my communication with work and the home front. By necessity, I am becoming more adept with video to maintain “face time” with Rose and the little guys. As a citizen/legislature, the members of the General Assembly all make certain arrangements to both take care of the people’s business as well as their own. Nonetheless, I sorely miss being at my children’s sporting events and helping Rose make sure homework and reading assignments are complete.
We attended the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Ball last Saturday. It was great to see all our business leaders and so many representatives of local government enjoying good fellowship and recognizing the accomplishments of our leading organizations and individuals. Our congratulations go to Chancellor Jane Upshaw and the USCB

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family for their award. Also, kudos to Larry and Tina Toomer and the Bluffton Oyster Company, the Bluffton Regional Business Council Member of the Year. Bill Miles and his excellent staff put on another stellar event.
Judiciary Committee and subcommittees are now well stocked with substantive legislation for debate. We continue to work through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) legislation, which is of particular interest to me. I spent the last ten years making Beaufort County government the most open and transparent in the state. While the effort was sometimes a struggle, the benefits in terms of day-to-day credibility were more than worth the exertion. I believe many of my legislative colleagues do not quite understand the corrosive effect of the widespread cynicism and mistrust of government that is rampant in our state, and indeed, our country.
Citizens must have good and easy access to government, including yantbonus.org timely and inexpensive release of appropriate records and documents. In subcommittee, we heard testimony from Denise Davidson and Councilwoman Barbara Clark from Jasper County detailing their personal challenges obtaining public records.
In truth, the current legislation falls short of what I believe is required to make state government as open and transparent as it should be. To that end, I plan to introduce legislation that will limit the legislative exception to FOIA.
We had good visits this week from members of Jasper County Council and staff. Our conversations were with Council Chairman Henry Etheridge, Council Member Barbara Clark, along with Administrator Andy Fulghum and Finance Director Ronnie Malphrus. In addition, we met again with folks from USCB, and supported our university’s parity funding request before Ways and Means Committee.
Our university is a jewel in our region, and our students are no less deserving of state funding than those at the other public colleges in the state. This parity issue is a top delegation agenda item for this year. We are focused and united on this matter and I am confident we can get it done.