Hopes for moving ahead in the new year

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Rose and I hope each of you had the Christmas and New Year's holidays that will provide memories for years to come. We were so busy with concluding end-of-year business, not to mention the social and family gatherings, that it has been a somewhat celebratory blur.

With the holidays recently behind us, and with a few moments to enjoy and appreciate an end to all the lovely commotion and finally draw a breath, I feel an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Our family, with all its complexities and challenges, is safe. Our children are with us and are excited to be back at school. Our parents are all situated and well stocked with another infusion of wonderful holiday memories.

My gratitude extends to all our neighbors, friends and constituents, many of whom are all of the above. Your cards, calls, gifts and good wishes filled our house with the warmth of friendship and the optimism of our blessed community.

Due to social media, prompted by a recent column of my colleague and friend, Bill Herbkersman, I was selected by the Riley Institute at Furman University for their 2017 Wilkins Award for Legislative Excellence.

Your comments reflected the fact that many of you went to their website and became more familiar with the work of the Riley Institute. You will understand why I was so surprised and so deeply humbled by the honor.

Allow me to share the Riley Institute's statement of intent:

Furman University's Richard W. Riley Institute broadens student and community perspectives about issues critical to South Carolina's progress.

It builds and engages present and future leaders, creates and shares data-supported information about the state's core challenges and links the leadership body to sustainable solutions. It is committed to nonpartisanship in all it does and to the rhetoric-free, fact-based approach to change.

The Riley Institute folks will have a presentation ceremony at the Columbia Convention Center on the Jan. 9, which is also the day we reconvene the General Assembly at the Statehouse.

As we reconvene the session, one of the first matters under consideration will be the package of six measures put forth by the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee (HURPC).

This committee was appointed by Speaker Jay Lucas in the wake of the abandonment of the nuclear power project being developed by a consortium including SCE&G, parent-company SCANA, and state-owned Santee Cooper.

The six measures, now filed, are intended to revamp the relationships, both financial and regulatory, between the utilities and the state. My sense is that this will be a complex and time-consuming matter, but absolutely necessary to give basic clarity to this fraught relationship.

Finally, as we begin a new year, it is my hope that this beginning will be met with the faith and the optimism that we can move ahead. That we can act in the spirit of the greater good, whether by repairing roads and bridges, or by articulating an ethical standard by which we in the Statehouse can more faithfully adhere to the manifest expectations of our constituents.

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

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