ISSUES & PRIORITIES
Top Three Priorities for 2020-2021 sessions in SC Statehouse
#1 – Infrastructure: In general, I want to oversee that the SC DOT adheres to the 10 year road and bridge improvement plan implemented by the SC DOT. Specifically, I want to continue to press for funding for the Hilton Head Island bridge replacement project. I have pushed to see that the $120,000,000 required from the State Infrastructure Bank to complete the bridge replacement project is funded in our favor.
The importance of this bridge cannot be overestimated. It is the lifeblood of ensuring that we have a sufficient workforce of critical workers to support our retiree population in areas of health care and services as well as hospitality workers to effectively support our based tourism economy, which in turn sustains our area’s unique quality of life.
By leveraging Federal, state and local funding we can get this vitally important project completed so that the economic vitality of the Island is ensured and we can repatriate some the money our taxpayers have been sending to the State Capitol over the years.
#2 – Federal Covid-19 Stimulus Oversight: The Federal government has allocated $1.9 billion to the state of South Carolina to assist in Covid-19 Pandemic relief. The responsibility for how those stimulus dollars will be spent rests in the hands of the General Assembly. I am vitally interested that the funds are spent wisely. I want to see that some of those dollars are used to replenish our Unemployment Trust Fund that has been hit so hard recently and additionally I want to see that it is used to assist those familiess and small businesses that have been hit hardest. I would also like to see some of it used as an incentive for new entrepreneurial businesses that might be started by people who were economically dislodged by this event.
#3 – Pension Reform: When I came to Columbia six years ago, virtually no one was talking about the condition of the State Retirement System. As a result of my persistent involvement in this discussion it is now on the front burner for policy makers in Columbia. We have shored up the plan since then and have shortened the amortization period needed to fully fund the plan but there is still work to be done. I have introduced legislation to reform the plan at its core and would like to follow through with that reform over the next legislative session.
Steps South Carolina can take to provide equitable quality public education
The top line of any specific changes to improve the educational outcomes in South Carolina would need to include a change in the funding approach. Currently our Governor, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate are cooperatively working with the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Agency on a new approach where student needs for services drives the funds. It’s a funding approach where 3 areas (instruction, facilities and transportation) drive the funding for the school districts .
Another objective is to effectively implement the Education Reform Bill recently passed by the House. This is a bill which created an environment for less testing and gives our teachers a “Bill of Rights”. “It provided teachers with more planning time plus an increase in teacher pay.
Additionally, I believe we need to empower teachers with responsibility for results, and provide pay that goes with that. Last year the House passed an extensive Education Reform bill and we’re now waiting on the Senate.
Currently there are 79 school districts in South Carolina and we only have 46 counties. I contend that if we consolidate the districts we would reduce the amount of administration costs that are in the system and the result would be more money pushed into the classroom.
We need to work on broadband and making that available at the end of each one of the lines in the rural sections to South Carolina. I believe if we can achieve that we will improve children’s access to various information and this ultimately improves outcomes.
There is no question that in the Education Arena we must increase accountability across the spectrum if we are going to have a better overall achievement record when compared to other States. We must increase accountability for the money spent and the results that we expect from teachers as well as from each School District.
We can achieve some to these goals simply by mirroring the successes of states like Mississippi where they have a robust leadership with intense vision that has begun driving tremendous results in terms of challenging curriculums and improved training for both teachers and school boards.
Let me first point out that we are already regulated to a very large extent. I agree that some level of regulations is necessary. Obviously, we all want a clean environment. That is why I have voted against offshore drilling along our entire coast, voted to expand the Conservation Land Bank and pushed hard to allow local municipalities and Counties like Hilton Head Island and Beaufort County have the authority to regulate plastic usage and other similar issues
However, balance is also needed. There shouldn’t be undue regulatory burdens that have limited positive impact but detract from the profitability of businesses that have tight margins already.
Great care also need to be taken to protect personal property rights.
There are Federal criteria that we have to address. However, the most important criteria is that we keep communities of interest together. Other criteria can be considered but they need to take a backseat to communities of interest. In 2010- 2011, our record of redistricting passed the scrutiny of the Obama administration. That is a group that could arguably be the most concerned about how a red state did redistricting. There were no complaints and no lawsuits. I think our existing process passed muster and I think that’s how we should continue.
Third party committees are beholden to no one and are not accountable to voters whereas elected officials are accountable to the voters. Transparency and public input should be a part of the redistricting process and should be a part of all that we do in the State House. The people of House District 123 deserve to know the why behind the decisions we make and deserve the opportunity to provide input on these decisions.
First we use vouchers and scholarships for private and parochial schools at the university level, If it’s OK there why not use it at the pre-K-12 as well. I believe in a free market system. I don’t believe that monolithic monopolies are always the best mechanism for delivering a service.
Our education system fits that criteria. Education is one of the last monopolies in the country. In my view, competition is valuable. It helps raise the standard and I believe that an all of the above approach is how we should pursue this.
Concerns that vouchers and scholarships will wreck the public education system are not borne out by other states. Florida has had great success with education savings accounts and allowing parents to choose for their children what they perceive to be the best route. Let’s learn from what others have done and see if we can’t move our system forward. With public dollars comes public accountability. We need to see the value and the return on our investment for our children.
Coronavirus and our healthcare system
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic there have been a lot of lessons learned about pandemics and how they should be handled. The foresight that South Carolina had in the creation of its telehealth delivery mechanism should be looked at favorably.
Our Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and our Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) together with the Medical School of the University of South Carolina (MUSC) we’re already partnering in the delivery of healthcare even before the pandemic.
COVID-19 dramatically illuminated the value telehealth offers to public health. For instance, the best doctors in the best nurses could be made available to areas that otherwise wouldn’t have access to the best doctors in the best nurses.
In an environment of allocating scare resources there are not enough resources to have a hospital in every community. So telemedicine is a positive approach to delivering needed care where there is an absence of hospitals in rural areas.
The pandemic has also spotlighted the reality that we need to expand the building of internet broadband across the state. If broadband were available across every South Carolina county the benefits of telehealth would be more broadly available to more people.
Regional health centers are another mechanism for delivery of health services. I have actively supported funding to support programs like the Beaufort Jasper Hampton Colleton Comprehensive Healthcare System and similar entities throughout South Carolina. I have investigated these facilities and found them to be a well run family care delivery system that covers all patients from head to toe, from podiatry to heart issues, diabetes and psychiatry. I am well aware of the principle that by focusing on preventive care the overall costs of health care will come down.