For the past couple of months in this space, I have commented on the once-a-decade process known as reapportionment and redistricting, essentially equalizing and reconfiguring the various legislative districts based on the latest population figures to ensure equal voting rights.
Much of September and early October was devoted to holding public hearings across the state, and our sub-committee is now beginning the process of developing a plan to present to the House Judiciary Committee, and ultimately the full House of Representatives, with the expectation of deliberation and passage before the General Assembly returns to regular session in January.
In addition, the time between now and the end of year will involve the prefiling periods for new legislation to be filed and assigned to committees for work on both the bills that did not get fully processed last year and “prefiled” legislation to begin in earnest as soon as we return to Columbia.
During the “off session,” a number of us have been working on election-related bills, not to quell participation but to ensure that our voter rolls accurately reflect only living voters and to make sure that all legal votes are properly counted. Unfortunately, the notions of honesty, fairness and integrity in the voting process is often the subject of political spin doctors, resulting in high emotion.
I believe in an open and transparent legislative process and have confidence that Republicans, Democrats and independents all ultimately want and support the idea that we have a responsibility to promote the public’s trust and confidence in government; I hope we can do the same with our voter rolls and election laws.
As chairman of the House Legislative Oversight Committee, in describing our work, I often quote President Woodrow Wilson, who in 1885 said that “[i]t is the proper duty of a representative body to look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees. It is meant to be the eyes and the voice, and to embody the wisdom and will of its constituents … [and further that] the informing function of … [the legislature] should be preferred even to its legislative function.”
A few years ago I received a national award for Effective Legislative Oversight from the Levin Institute at Wayne Law School. As part of the award presentation, retired Sen. Carl Levin and I spent an hour or so on CSPAN talking about the importance of this notion of effective legislative oversight. While the senator and I were from different political parties, we shared a mutual belief that government at every level should be held to account and in a public fashion.
Regretfully, Sen. Levin passed away this summer. It was an honor for me not only to be recognized with his namesake award but to spend time and share a stage with this lifelong public servant focusing on areas of agreement rather than political differences.
Oversight is not and should not be a partisan issue. Fortunately, the Levin Institute will carry on the senator’s legacy of promoting oversight and accountability.
In closing, I am pleased to report that I was one of five House members and two senators who received a 100% score in the recently released 2021 Americans For Prosperity-South Carolina Legislative Scorecard. This is another honor of which I am proud, but no award or score is as important to me as the confidence placed in me to represent you in the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Please do not hesitate to contact me here or in Columbia if I may be of service to you.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov