At this writing, we are past the halfway point of session. With a somewhat shortened legislative session, crossover will fall on April 10. Basically, this means that any measure passed to the other chamber must either be complete before crossover or face a higher hurtle to even be considered this year.
In my view, the change is salutary in that we are encouraged to make the compromises necessary to pass essential legislation without the usual posturing and gamesmanship.
In that spirit, the Newton clan decided to combine Rose’s need to be at the Aspen Institute as part of her Liberty Fellowship, with a modest celebration of my 50th birthday.
So off we went, Rose to her Globalization seminar, and the birthday boy (me) and the little guys to enjoy a ski vacation.
It all had kind of a multi-tasking, modern feel about it. We would combine civic duty, family celebration and vacation in snowy Colorado.
Of course, such efficiency was also borderline hubris.
A couple of days into the adventure, Rose was called back to South Carolina because her father was at MUSC with a potentially serious stroke. We decamped to Manning and Charleston with almost no thoughts of anything but family. It seems that Rose’s arrival sparked a significant improvement in her father’s prognosis.
With the move of my father-in-law from intensive care to rehab, I returned to Columbia to vote on a pair of important pieces of legislation. In the first, the Roads Bill passed by a vote of 97 to 18, with three quarters of Republicans supporting the bill.
This is the culmination of quite an effort to accomplish not only a reform of SCDOT, but also to provide a sustainable funding stream that should accomplish what South Carolinians have been clamoring for.
The second bill was one to reform and stabilize our pension system. My friend and delegation colleague, Rep. Bill Herbkersman, had co-chaired a House-Senate Committee to do just that. He and his committee had been working on this important matter for months.
Bill took the podium and spoke for 32 minutes, explaining and answering questions from the members. When his presentation was done, we voted 110 to 14 to pass this bill along to the Senate, where a companion bill is expected to pass without difficulty.
There was also another bill in which I had a personal interest. It was a bill to ban any local jurisdiction from passing any measure to regulate the sale or use of plastic grocery bags or other plastic containers.
I had been able to stop the bill last year in Judiciary, with the help of a package of environmental research from Dr. Chris Marsh, of the Lowcountry Institute. This year, we had validating research from DNR guru Al Stokes, head of the Waddell Mariculture Center.
Against the smart money, your local delegation used the info to change a lot of minds among the members. We won a temporary victory over the corporate lobbyists in favor of letting local jurisdictions determine the question under debate, rather than pre-empting any debate.
It was local councils against the lobbyists. We don’t win many, but this one was a big deal.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.