Meaningful Policy Decisions Await

Constituent_UpdateThe South Carolina General Assembly reconvenes this week for the final year of the two year legislative session. We have many very real and impactful issues that need to be addressed. Fixing our crumbling roads, responding to SC Supreme Court ruling on rural education, improving our workforce, relief for  the devastating fall floods, replacing a retiring SC Supreme Court Justice, ethics reform and improving law enforcement training are just a few. Sprinkle in election year politics and early accounts point toward a busy but potentially contentious session. Our challenge is to avoid the distractions and stay focused on the issues that advance South Carolina.

Roads – Quite simply, transportation infrastructure is the single most important issue we face in 2016. We must fix our crumbling roads. The actions we take, or do not take, will have ramifications for the next fifty years. Whether it is our daily commutes, moving our children to and from school, emergency response or the movement of commerce, our roads are the critical link. The only way to accomplish this is with meaningful reforms that can pass the legislative body and executive branch review. The solution is reform of the Department of Transportation, dedicated funding to our road network via user fees, and income tax reductions to reduce the overall growth of government. This is good conservative economic policy, good conservative tax policy, and good conservative governance policy. If we can accomplish this, SC will experience a sea change in its quality of life and economic future.

Education – After waiting for 22 years for a decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled SC does not provide a minimally adequate education – a term I find objectionable I might add – to many rural school districts in SC. As a result, I have served on a special Senate Committee charged with the review of our education system as it relates to these plaintiff districts. There are both success stories as well as stories of heartbreaking failures in rural South Carolina. Based on testimony over last few months, it is clear that the successes are the result of good teachers and quality leadership and not solely dollars and cents, nevertheless there will be efforts to simply throw money at this problem. It is our responsibility to avoid this “easy” response and encourage policies that result in students having direct access to great teachers. The House of Representatives has put forward several proposals to address much needed short term demands. The Senate will be working on long term cures as a response to the court’s order.

Public Safety – Our law enforcement officers have taken, what I believe to be, an unfair hit to their collective character. With very few exceptions, these public servants operate daily in an environment that we will never truly understand. They place their lives on the line in their sworn commitment to protect and serve. We owe it to them to provide the best possible training and support.

Ethics Reform – No amount of laws can guarantee ethical behavior by individuals. However, it is necessary to create an environment in which the public has trust and confidence. Too often that is not the case in government. Since first arriving in the Senate, I have supported and pushed for meaningful ethics reforms to ensure that the public has faith in the system. While it is clear to me that after three years of trying, meaningful, comprehensive reforms are unlikely to garner the support needed to pass the General Assembly. It is my hope that we can at least reach a point where we require public disclosure of incomes for elected officials. This change would go a long way towards shining sunlight and allowing the public to make their own determinations as to potential conflicts of interest that may be present.

Shortening of the Legislative Session – The SC General Assembly meets annually for nearly six months. This time commitment makes it difficult, if not impossible, for talented and interested people to seek elected office. The long session can also lead to inefficiencies. In an effort to reduce the cost to taxpayers, be more efficient with our time, and create a system that is accessible to more citizens, there is an effort to shorten the legislative session.

These are but a few of the many issues that will be addressed in the coming months. While election years traditionally make it difficult to advance large, and particularly difficult, issues I am encouraged by many of my colleagues’ willingness to set those interests aside in order to get to work.

It is a great honor for me to serve the people of Dorchester, Berkeley, and Charleston Counties. I thank you for this opportunity.

Filed in: Constituent Updates, Education, Governance, Roads & Infrastructure, Uncategorized Tags: ,

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