Change is the only constant. It is cliché, but demonstrably true. This past year has been one of profound change in our state.
For example, one of the perennial impediments to progress in South Carolina has been our history of racial mistrust and tension.
One of the flashpoints has always been the matter of the Confederate flag either atop the statehouse or on the grounds. The flag was a reminder for many of our citizens of our state’s fraught racial history, from slavery to Jim Crow and beyond.
This past year, the flag was removed from the statehouse grounds, but the catalyst for the change was horrendous.
The Mother Emanuel Massacre left nine dead, including our Sen. Clementa Pinckney. In response, the governor and the leadership of the General Assembly finally did what heretofore could not be done, and placed the flag in a more appropriate museum setting.
The result was race relations, at least in the Lowcountry, were unfrozen, leading to at least a glimpse of what might be possible. Thousands of Charlestonians walking together across the Ravenel bridge, black and white, many hand in hand, was astonishing and, in many ways, revolutionary, for our state.
The unprecedented October rains, and the accompanying catastrophic flooding, was another cause for change. Not only did we see an outpouring of civic virtue, in the form of local heroes loading their trucks with supplies for the hard-hit areas of the state, but we are also likely to see the General Assembly, again, do what could not be done, which is to repair and upgrade our failing transportation infrastructure.
The disaster revealed how fragile we have allowed our roads and bridges to become. It highlights the absolute necessity to reform our Department of Transportation, but also to provide a consistent source of funding for this essential aspect of state governance.
Any strategic overview of how to advance our state, relative to our regional competitors, begins with reforming our ethics regime. I was confident that the disgrace and removal of two of our top state officials for corruption would have made ethics reform a top priority. I was mistaken.
As long as the South Carolina Senate will not accept any version of outside oversight of ethics issues, the good work of the House in this area will languish.
Of course, I will continue to beat the drum for this urgent reform. That said, as I become more experienced in the culture of the legislature, I understand that we are a body that values incremental change over costly revolution.
In looking more closely, I noticed that the clerk of the House has reported that due to an increase in the number of committee meetings being streamed on ETV, our streaming capacity has doubled.
This is due, in no small part, to the fact that this legislator, as chairman of the Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC), insisted that we televise every meeting and hearing of our committee.
Ethics and transparency reform is not moribund; it is just taking a more subtle form in our statehouse. In truth, I am excited by this development.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.