With the most recent session of the General Assembly now at an end, I’d like to offer a very brief recap.
We started in the fall of last year with an extremely productive study committee process, initiated by then new Speaker Lucas. In the House, there was a high level of expectation that our twin legislative priorities, transportation infrastructure and ethics reform, were about to be addressed with energy and a modicum of rarely seen unity of purpose.
At the close of the regular session, optimism had turned to disappointment, and there were legitimate questions from many quarters as to whether our legislature, even with an overwhelming majority party advantage, could get the people’s business done.
True, there was some progress on domestic violence. We did manage to provide some nonrecurring funding for local transportation improvement by passing dollars through to the counties.
This was a win for Home Rule, but was something of a pilot project to see if County Councils could spend dollars more efficiently than DOT.
On ethics, our efforts were lackluster, to say the least. However, during the interim between Sine Die and the special session to handle the governor’s vetoes, the ground shifted under our state, and much of the South.
An apparent white supremacist gunman assassinated nine good people during Bible study at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. The local community, black and white, rose to reject violence and, instead, offer prayer and calls for unity against this extremist assault.
In Columbia, the governor and leaders of the General Assembly earnestly struggled to respond. When finally proffered, the response was both humane and appropriate.
The Confederate battle flag, flown on the grounds of the Statehouse for over 50 years, but also seen in repulsive videos of the accused assassin, was finally removed.
I was never more proud of my legislative colleagues than when, after very lengthy and emotional debate in the House, a clean bill was presented to the governor for her signature.
Finally able to return to my Myrtle Island home to be with my family, even the little ones had a sense that something important, something historic, had changed for the better.
More than anything, I was just happy and relieved to be with my loved ones.
You may remember that last year, I was honored to be nominated and selected as a Liberty Fellow. It is difficult to express how transformational this Socratic-based leadership program has been for me.
The real-life benefits of having studied many of our foundational documents with an amazing group of smart folks from around our state, and in our collaboration with the Aspen Institute, from around the world, has been incredible.
We were recently informed that my wife, Rose, had been nominated and chosen from a field of 300-400 nominees as a Fellow in the 2017 Liberty Fellowship class. We both feel that this experience will add in profound measure to our shared foundation of faith and family.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.