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Black Legislators Also See Guns And Roads As Major Legislative Issues In 2016, And More
1/6/2016 4:50:34 PM

Marlon Kimpson

Robert Brown
By Barney Blakeney

Gun control and roads will be major focuses for local Black legislators as well when the S.C. General Assembly goes back in session next week, but also on the agenda will be South Carolina State University and schools in the ‘Corridor of Shame’.

It sounds almost like a broken record when asking legislators what will be on the agenda in the upcoming legislative session. And there doesn’t seem to be much difference between issues that impact Blacks in the state particularly and those of general interest to the mainstream population. But Charleston Sen. Marlon Kimpson says he’ll be focused on South Carolina State University and funding for rural Black public schools in the notorious ‘corridor of shame’.

Insuring that SCSU becomes financially solvent is among his priorities, Kimpson said.

Support for the state’s only publicly supported historically black university is imperative, he said. An unanticipated increase in enrollment at the struggling institution is good news, but more important is making sure it gets adequate funding to make it competitive among the state’s higher education institutions, Kimpson said.

Likewise is developing a plan to better fund rural schools in several counties that have been part of ongoing 20-year litigation. Last year the state’s supreme court ordered the legislature to end the stagnation that contributes to schools in the corridor of shame ranking among the state’s lowest.

Kimpson, who next week goes to Columbia for his second legislative session since winning the special election to fill an unexpired term in Senate Dist. 42 in 2013, said he will work tirelessly to get his colleagues in the senate to address the funding of those schools without delay.

Gun control and roads infrastructure are high profile targets of the legislature this session, but for black and minority communities they take on greater importance, Kimpson said. About $1 billion of the state’s budget each of the next 20 years will be required for roads maintenance. That’s money which won’t be available for other things, like public education, he said.

Gun control is a conversation that must go beyond the legislative halls of the general assembly, Kimpson said. He’s prefiled four bills that will restrict gun sales and other aspects of gun control. But the impact of any legislation must be coupled with substantive dialogue in Black communities relative to the alarming statistics of gun violence.
Increasing the state’s minimum wage, providing money for affordable housing initiatives and public transportation also are on Kimpson’s radar in the upcoming legislative session.

Hollywood Rep. Robert Brown says many of the same issues left unfinished during the 2015 legislative session will be taken up again this year. But he thinks the issues of $414 million needed for recovery from last year’s unprecedented flood disaster and rural schools funding will be resolved.

For rural districts such as his, affordable housing and jobs creation will be paramount initiatives, Brown said. And while gun control debate seems like just so much political rhetoric, any action that takes more guns off the streets impacts Black communities.

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