By S.C. Senator Shane Massey
Things sure are quieter now that the Presidential candidates and national media have left for Florida. Although I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet several of the candidates and vote in the “First in the South” primary, I’m also happy for someone else to deal with all the phone calls, mail, and commercials!
The break in presidential politics will allow us to focus on some very important issues here at home. The General Assembly returned to work earlier this month, and we have a full plate.
A New Way of Doing Things
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 (www.scstatehouse.gov) 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.
First up on the Senate’s agenda this year is a bill to create a new Department of Administration. Although it’s not the sexiest political issue, this restructuring effort will make South Carolina government more efficient and accountable for decades to come. 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 – $228 MILLION! – deficit last year.
When this bill is passed, it 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.
A Resolution to be “Fiscally” Fit
In addition to a long-overdue restructuring effort, this year’s agenda includes a real push toward more responsible budgeting. After the session ended last year, I was asked to serve on a subcommittee considering an overhaul of our budgeting process. Last Fall, while the legislature was out of session, this subcommittee worked to produce legislation that will prevent deficit spending, impose a cap on how much money the legislature can spend, limit agencies’ ability to impose hidden fees on the public, and stop the irresponsible practice of raiding trust funds. I support these common-sense moves, and I hope they gain traction early this year.
Our Senate district now has a new look. The legislature spent much of last year drawing new districts to account for population changes following the 2010 census. The result is that our district now includes all of Edgefield County and portions of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. You can view the new district map by going to http://redistricting.scsenate.gov/S815DistrictMaps/S815_D25_Lmap.pdf.
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. Stay tuned for details!
In addition to town halls, I plan to send weekly email updates from the Senate this year. If you’d like to receive my updates, please go to my website at www.senatormassey.com to sign up.
In the meantime, you can always contact me by telephone (803-480-0419), email (email@example.com), or regular mail (P.O. Box 551, Edgefield, SC 29824). Or just pull me aside when you see me.