During my tenure as chairman of Beaufort County Council, there were many opportunities for me to publicly express my admiration and gratitude for their fine work.
Even though we were organized as single member districts, there were many times when the BCC members put the county’s best interests ahead of their individual districts.
There have been few opportunities for me to express those sentiments as a member of the South Carolina General Assembly.
Today, at this writing, I say without reservation that I am proud to be a member of the House of Representatives for our state.
In my last column for this publication, I gave an abbreviated history of the past two years in the struggle to bring rationality and common sense to the process that will ultimately bring decent roads and bridges to our state, with the possibility that we will no longer have to endure the embarrassment and peril of having among the most dangerous state roads in the nation.
We in the House have set the table for SCDOT to do what they have wanted to do for many years, which is create serviceable roads and sturdy bridges for our citizens and visitors to traverse.
They have wanted to create the roads and bridges that the trucking industry has requested, then demanded, so that their trucks did not require extraordinary repairs to do ordinary business in our state.
As a relatively new member of the House, I tried to be respectful of legislative tradition and appropriately deferential to those with greater seniority.
Unfortunately, it was tradition and seniority that were the culprits in creating the situation we now experience.
The recent Legislative Audit Council (LAC) study has put numbers and process deficiencies before us in vary stark and persuasive terms. We as a legislative body, both House and Senate, each own a share of the culpability for how we have allowed our most valuable asset, our roads and bridges, to become our most underfunded and unacceptable liability.
That said, the House, under Speaker Jay Lucas, last year created study groups to interview experts and stakeholders as to what needed to be done to alleviate this dire situation.
With that study process in mind, we passed a good bill to not only reform DOT and its financing and prioritization arm, the State Infrastructure Bank, we also gave solid direction as to how we could, and should, pay for our dereliction.
Sadly, after more than a year of reflection, the Senate cannot agree with little more than the reform.
The House has returned the Senate’s tepid response with a robust bill that needs public support, as well as a vote, up or down, from our friends in the Senate.
The vote in the Senate will either save lives or cost lives, save jobs or lose jobs. Please contact your senator. This is important.
If they would rather talk about bathrooms and who uses them, they don’t get it. If what you hear are distraction and not action plans, that’s why we have elections.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.