Finally, progress on priorities - yours and ours

Weston Newton


Finally, progress on priorities - yours and ours

It did not happen this Fourth of July, but by the time the holiday rolls around next year, you will notice that our highways have fewer potholes and much less broken pavement.

After three years of House and Senate wrangling, first over whether more money to fix and maintain roads and bridges was needed, then whether the SCDOT could use more funding effectively, and finally the argument was simply that we, as conservatives, couldn't raise taxes, even a user fee, if hell was still reasonably warm.

All kidding aside, this was a serious issue that was finally treated as such. I am extraordinarily proud of my fellow House members for holding firm. That said, it was the citizenry - the residents and voters of our state - who emphatically decided the issue. I only regret that, once again, your patience was sorely tested.

In more good news, my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reform bill was finally enacted, after years of delay, and at times, nearly comical opposition. The responses, from the governor's comments in his signing statement, to jubilation from editorial boards across the state, were uniformly positive.

It was a clear, albeit incomplete, victory for the citizens' right to access those public records that reflect the workings of their elected officials. It was opening a window to much-needed and cleansing sunshine.

This step forward for transparency in government was incomplete in that there are still obstacles to unfettered access to the public's right to see appropriate government documents. We failed to create a desk in the Administrative Law Court to expeditiously adjudicate disputes in FOIA application. We were also unable to apply this transparency to the General Assembly, the so-called "legislative exemption."

While the latter is held to be sacrosanct at the State House, we all know that rules also apply, or should apply, to the rule makers. Pre-filings, by this and other legislators, for next year's session will reflect remedies for both these shortcomings.

Finally, there are a few comments that need to be made about your legislative delegation and our priorities.

"Clean and Green" is shorthand for how our state is perceived around the world. Our state is a highly desirable destination for visitors, both foreign and domestic. They, as do residents, enjoy our beaches and clean water. Not surprisingly, many return as new neighbors. We have jobs and industry without belching smokestacks, oily beaches or polluted water. Our quality of life is, at least momentarily, in that economic sweet spot.

It is no wonder that environmental issues are usually one of our delegation priorities. Recently, my friend and delegation partner, Bill Herbkersman, earned the Friend of the Coast award presented by the S.C. Beach Advocates. Last year, S.C. Conservation Voters awarded this legislator the "green tie" for conservation advocacy.

We show up when it's time for the River Sweep or May River Cleanup. We also always show up at the State House when it's time to protect our "Clean and Green."

Your children and ours deserve no less.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.