I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve decided to break with tradition this year. This year’s resolution is to provide you with a weekly email update from the Senate. So, here goes –
A couple updates from last year
Before tackling this year’s agenda, though, I want to make sure you’ve heard about two of last year’s major accomplishments. During my campaigns in 2007 and 2008, I talked a lot about the need to shake up Columbia. I’m happy to report that we’re making some progress. In 2008, my first year in the Senate, nearly every vote was a “voice vote.” When the vote came up, the President of the Senate asked all those in favor to vote “aye” and all those opposed to vote “no.” It was a quick way of doing business, but it was impossible for you to determine how I voted on an issue.
Fortunately, things have changed for the better. Every bill that comes before the legislature now receives a recorded vote. You can go to the General Assembly’s website and see how I voted on every bill that came before the Senate last year. This year’s votes will be recorded the same way. There are couple ways to see how I vote. You can go here, or you can click on the “Voting Record” tab on my website – www.senatormassey.com.
Secondly, the General Assembly spent a good bit of time last year on redistricting. Every ten years, following the census, the legislature has to update districts based on population changes. Senate districts now have roughly 100,500 people.
Like most Senate districts across the state, our district has changed a little. We now have all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the new district map, go here.
Department of Administration
When I’ve talked about “shaking up Columbia,” one of the things that always comes up is South Carolina’s unique – and antiquated – structure of government. The Senate resumed debate last week on a bill that would overhaul the way our government operates.
For too long, some of the most significant decisions in South Carolina have been made by a 5-member Budget and Control Board. That Board makes executive decisions that are left to governors in nearly every other state and legislative decisions that are more appropriate for the General Assembly. For instance, it was the Budget and Control Board that allowed the Department of Health and Human Services to run a $228 Million deficit last year! I am no fan of deficit spending – I think it’s the height of irresponsibility – but I especially don’t like it when deficits are forced upon us without legislative approval. That’s what happened last year.
The restructuring bill that the Senate is debating now will abolish the Budget and Control Board and shift most administrative functions of government into the Department of Administration, a cabinet level agency under the Governor. It will ensure that the legislature is responsible for making budgetary decisions so you can hold your legislators accountable for how money is spent. And it will require the legislature to assume an essential role it has abdicated for far too long – oversight of executive agencies. A more defined separation of powers with the necessary checks and balances will be a huge step forward.
I have been very involved in this debate because I believe this restructuring effort will have a significant impact on South Carolina for years to come. I joined Senator Glenn McConnell and Senator Vincent Sheheen last Thursday on “This Week in the Senate” to discuss the Department of Administration. You can watch the program here by clicking on the “January 19, 2012” show. The video is approximately 30 minutes.
The Senate will continue to debate this legislation this coming week. I’ll provide another update in the next email.
State of the State Address
I was able to attend Governor Nikki Haley’s second annual State of the State address last week. Governor Haley celebrated many of the successes South Carolina has had over the past year, and there have been quite a few. One of the brightest spots was right here in our Senate district: Bridgestone’s investment of $1.2 Billion to expand its Graniteville plant is the largest investment in South Carolina history and is expected to create 850 new jobs. The governor also identified several challenges facing South Carolina and offered suggestions on how to address them.
Town Halls and Email Updates
I have held dozens of town hall meetings throughout our district over the past 4 years, and I really appreciate the hundreds of folks who have participated. These town hall meetings give me a chance to keep you updated about what’s going on in Columbia and, more importantly, allow me to hear what’s on your mind. I’m already working on the next round of meetings, which I hope to schedule for late February and early March. I’ll get the schedule out soon.
As I said at the beginning of this email, I plan to send weekly email updates from the Senate this year. A lot of people have signed up for my email updates, but I know there are a lot of folks who haven’t yet. If you know of someone who might be interested, please forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.
If you need to contact me, you can get me by telephone (803-480-0419), email, or regular mail (P.O. Box 551, Edgefield, SC 29824).