At this writing, your legislature has a little over two weeks left in regular session, plus a week or so to deal with vetoes. We are still negotiating with the Senate on the budget, the reform of SCDOT, and a realistic funding initiative to begin to repair our roads and bridges.
The Senate also passed and returned a few of the dozen or so ethics bills passed in the House. Unfortunately, we are looking at either making very modest progress on ethics this year, or none at all. If we can make a start, at least we will have something to build on next year.
Ethics and transparency are such foundational features of good governance, I promise you they will not just fade away. After the comparatively recent removal of both the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor on corruption charges, I assumed there would be urgency for reform in the Senate to match that of the House and the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians.
Apparently, the urgency of election left little energy in the Senate for consideration of serious reform.
Again, I was also optimistic that this would be the year we began to address our transportation infrastructure deficits. Taking testimony before the transportation task force prior to this session, we heard from stakeholders across the board. We heard from business groups, such as the State Chamber of Commerce, the trucking industry, as well as citizens’ groups, all of whom were clearly exasperated with the perennial legislative neglect of our roads and bridges.
To compound the problem, the catastrophic rains we experienced in 2015 brought home the necessity of acting now.
Earlier in the session, The Legislative Oversight Committee, of which I am chairman, along with a group of senators, requested the Legislative Audit Council to examine SCDOT, its governance and its funding process. The audit revelations were just stunning. Not only was their governance deeply flawed, but also they were funded at levels 66 percent below our regional peers.
Still the politics of election was seemingly more important than safe roads and bridges. It was like that Pogo cartoon: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Next year, this legislator will resume these reform efforts with renewed vigor and commitment. I know we can do better.
On the home front, our “little guys” are growing up alarmingly fast. Eliza Rose is now in middle school and oldest daughter Reedy will be driving them to school in the fall. We have only about three weeks before they all head off to camp.
In truth, I enjoyed taking them to school. It was our time to talk. It was my time to repeat my exhortation to listen, study, and be considerate of others. They usually did a fair job of impersonating taking me seriously.
Friends, one of the implicit obligations of bringing children into this world is to do our best to make the world a better place for them and their children. My family and then public service are my passions.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.