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
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.