Weather hinders work on ambitious agenda

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The second regular session of the 122nd South Carolina General Assembly kicked off right on time. We are constitutionally mandated to begin on the second Tuesday of each year. This year, that date was Jan. 9.

We had every intention of making good progress on the six measures put forward by the House Ratepayer's Protection Committee, dealing with the impacts of the abandonment of the SCANA, SCE&G and Santee Cooper Consortium's nuclear power project, along with a long list of other priorities.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with our ambitious agenda, as snow, sleet, ice and frigid temperatures made transportation to and from the Statehouse difficult or impossible for many members.

The various committees and subcommittees had difficulty making quorum requirements, and rather than risk the possibility of casualties on icy roads, we decided to call a few days furlough.

The event that did take place on schedule was the awards ceremony by the Riley Institute at Furman University's 2017 Wilkins Awards for Legislative and Civic Excellence. It was held, as usual, at the Columbia Convention Center on the evening of the first day of session.

The Riley Institute folks selected me for the legislative award, as some of you following this column might recall.

It was heartening that so many of our Lowcountry friends and family could attend the ceremony. As my acceptance speech encapsulates much of my personal political philosophy, I would like to share it with you:

"It is with profound humility and gratitude that I accept this award. It is truly an extraordinary honor. I am also grateful to our friends at the Riley Institute at Furman University for their influential work in cultivating forward-looking, rational leadership in public service to the common good. Such work is always important, but at no time more so than now.

"We are also indebted to the Riley Institute for providing an image of what good government looks like, and for helping us understand its relationship to the idea of true public service. The former does not exist without the latter, and true public service does not exist apart from its distinguishing and necessary attributes. They are: honor, integrity and discipline.

"In short, good government is the result of public servants, you and I, doing the people's business in a transparent manner with honor, integrity and discipline.

"Tonight, at the beginning of session, we have this timely reminder from two embodiments of public service, Secretary Riley and Ambassador Wilkins, namesakes of the nonpartisan, presenting organization and the award, respectively. Thank you, gentlemen.

"As many of you, no doubt, have experienced, doing the people's business is often at the expense of family time. Fortunately, in all these years, my accomplished and lovely wife, Rose, has always carried on during my absences, helping with homework, attending school plays and basketball games. The home fires have always burned brightly (both literally and figuratively) at the Newton house. Thank you, Rose.

"And, thank you, friends, for this singular evening. We will not forget this moment of generous recognition.

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

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