I want to thank the many folks who commented on my last column in this space. The reaction to my story of Rose’s commencement speech for the MBA class of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina was in heavy rotation on our Facebook page for quite some time. We were surprised by the volume of good wishes and kind words. Thank you.
At this writing, the legislature is off for the President’s Day holiday. When we return, the main item of attention will be working up the budget. Ways and Means Committee and its subcommittees have been busily holding hearings and taking testimony from department heads and others who can speak to the particular needs to be addressed this session.
One of those needs this time around is to reinvigorate our mental health regime. In particular, we have some catching up to do with regard to our series of group homes housing folks with developmental disabilities.
There are a number of those facilities in Jasper and Colleton counties. With revenues above the usual, we want to perform long-deferred maintenance on the structures as well as look closely at staffing levels.
This is somewhat akin to our ongoing efforts to be more attentive to our public education system, and to the salaries and working conditions of our teachers. We were able to stem the flow of teachers leaving the system, but we need to follow through with the commitments we made in this area.
Last week, the Senate continued its debate on their Education Reform Bill, S.419. They have been on task with this for well over a month. They expect to finish their debate within a week of our return to work, whereupon they will send their product back to the House for our consideration.
Another example of proactive treatment of a serious problem was Gov. Henry McMaster’s appointment of the Floodwater Commission in response to the increase in flooding we have recently experienced. Even small storms have been causing flooding to a degree that doesn’t bode well, especially for us along the coast.
The commission’s final report is out, and most agree it is a good piece of work. However, a group of retired environmental scientists called the Senior Conservation Leadership Alliance has reviewed the commission’s work and offered some helpful suggestions.
Among the most persuasive, in my view, is that the commission’s recommendations focus too much on costly engineering solutions, such as river channelization and near-shore artificial reefs, at the expense of low-tech solutions such as wetlands and marsh protection and limiting impervious surfaces.
One of the leaders of the Alliance reviewers is Dr. Fred Holland, a person well known in our area. He was instrumental in helping Beaufort County revamp our stormwater management regime during my tenure as chairman of Beaufort County Council.
I expect the flooding issue will continue to spark intense debate, especially as hurricane season is right around the corner.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov