Study of state agencies on-going; you can help

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With the beginning of the school year, the Newton household has returned to the comfort of our domestic rituals.

To place an exclamation point on the previous sentence, our first football game of the season was held a couple of weeks ago. While I won't bore you with the results of the match, suffice to say that Hilton Head Christian Academy took on a fired-up team from Thomas Heyward Academy. It was a long night.

Our summer was one involving quite a bit of coming and going. Our crew had camp engagements in cooler parts of the South. The delivery and retrieval of young'uns meant a fair amount of time spent on the roads of our state.

While SCDOT Secretary Kristy Hall has initiated a great deal of improvement of said roads, it must be acknowledged that while the new infrastructure dollars have been committed, the projects are still in the early stages.

My many trips between Bluffton and the Statehouse for, among other things, Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC) meetings, were worthwhile in the sense that much was accomplished. Unfortunately, some of that benefit was akin to Secretary Hall's assurances, in that the benefits will materialize in the future.

LOC is a process that seeks to discover how each agency of the state can be the best at what it is mandated to do. We are required, by statute, to do a programmatic study of each department or agency every seven years.

Such a task requires we meet year-round, as well as attract folks who either work for these departments or agencies, or have dealings with them, to help us by either making on-line suggestions, or speaking before our committee.

My comments in this space last month did help to move the needle a bit as far as public input, but we need a more robust response. The design of the LOC was structured to attract and utilize a maximum of public input.

The design was also to present the ideas and opinions of those with the most experience and largest stake in the good work of each of these agencies.

We stream live on SCETV each committee and every subcommittee meeting. We include a transcript of the testimony of each representative of each agency, or civilian with a comment to make concerning their experience, either positive or negative, when dealing with any state agency.

In my conversations with Speaker James Lucas, during the time, some years ago, when we put this committee and process together, our model was the success we had during my tenure as chairman of Beaufort County Council.

Our invitation to the public, our commitment to absolute transparency in our financials, in our deliberations, and to upholding the most stringent ethical criteria, made us the standard in South Carolina.

The translation to a statewide LOC has not been without challenges. The level of mistrust and cynicism is strong and deeply ingrained. We have made a huge dent, but there is work still to be done.

If you join the process, if you contribute to the public portion of public service, we all benefit. This is your moment to do the right thing.

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

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