I was in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of Counties (NACO) Legislative Conference March 3-7, and also spent some time up on Capitol Hill in meetings with Rep. Mark Sanford, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Sen. Tim Scott and Sen. Lindsey Graham.

I am a member appointed to NACO’s Environment, Energy and Land Use Steering Committee. In our meetings, we discussed two proposed resolutions for action to be taken at the business meeting and at the Annual Conference in July.

I joined my friends from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and south Texas in the fight for a resolution asking for more local governance requirements and acknowledgment from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the EPA and the USDA when opening water facilities, floodgates, breaches and other events to avoid downstream drownings and agriculture loss.

The other proposed resolution that I had the privilege to look at and debate as a member of the steering committee was a resolution that also dealt with water and storm water. This resolution was written to better a deal with any new federal, state and local policies that could impact wetlands and flood plains.

Even with an estimated 184,000 citizens, Beaufort County, in my opinion, is still considered to be “rural.” With this in mind, I attended the Rural Action Caucus. The meeting was attended by approximately 300 people from across the U.S. and had two basic topics: 1. the USDA focus on agriculture and rural prosperity, and 2. the opioid crisis.

Those who know me best know I hardly ever give up an opportunity to talk. For more than five minutes, I explained the tragic news that Beaufort County has an opioid and heroin death rate that has tripled in just two years, and that in South Carolina, our death rate by opioids now outnumbers homicides.

I also explained to the crowd that Beaufort County is the first county in South Carolina to hire a triple team of legal firms to represent us in a lawsuit against a smattering of pharmaceutical companies like Johnson and Johnson, McKesson Corporation, et al, against several unnamed Beaufort County doctors and clinics across the county.

Our “complaint” has been filed in the State Court of South Carolina (again, the first to do this) rather than in federal court, as has been done in several states across the nation. Why? We believe in home rule and in the fact that this should be left in control of those most affected – the people HERE, not the people in the federal court system somewhere else.

What a great trip to Washington, D.C. I will have more to share on topics soon. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Michael E. Covert represents District 7 on Beaufort County Council. mcovert@bcgov.net