By Barney Blakeney
South Carolina State legislators went back to work this week for the 2018 legislative session. The Charleston County delegation will be joined by Marvin Pendarvis, elected last November to fill the unexpired term left by House Dist. 113 Rep. J. Seth Whipper. Charleston City Council also this week installed three new members. At both political levels the New Year will include a lot of old business.
Pendarvis said the voters of Dist. 113 elected him to continue 23-year veteran legislator Whipper’s unfinished business. Legislative sessions run two-year cycles, Pendarvis explained. This year is the final year of the current session, so a lot of stuff that was left on the calendar last term will be picked up this term. But foremost on the agenda will be the SCANA/Santee-Cooper nuclear plant construction debacle that unfolded last year, Pendarvis said. Following closely as a priority will be education reform, he said.
During the legislative off-season, the South Carolina Supreme Court let legislators tasked with developing an effective funding formula for the state’s public schools off the hook, Pendarvis said. The need doesn’t disappear with that absolution, he said. The legislature which is being scrutinized because of uncovered corruption still has the responsibility to address issues like healthcare in addition to ethics reform, he said. As a freshman legislator, Pendarvis said he realizes challenges lie ahead for him. He’s excited about that and takes that responsibility seriously, he said.
Several legislators have pre-filed bills they hope will gain traction in the upcoming session. Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard filed bills that would privatize the state’s school buses by 2022 and another to install metal detectors at public elementary, middle and high schools. Rep. Joe Jefferson of Pineville has filed a bill to erect a memorial to Clarendon County civil rights pioneer Rev. Joseph A. DeLaine and Columbia Sen. John Scott filed a bill to repeal the law that prohibits renaming, relocation or removal of historic monuments.
Closer to home the political landscape may look a little different with the addition of some new faces on municipal councils, but it will continue to reflect some carryover issues. Charleston Councilman William Dudley Gregorie said for new members – Dist. 2 Councilman Kevin Shealy, Dist. 10 Councilman Harry Griffin and Dist. 12 Councilwoman Carol Jackson who all represent West Ashley districts – the continuing issue in 2018 will be drainage.
Charleston voters approved a $20 million bond issue to fund affordable housing that will produce some 800 units beginning this year, Gregorie said. But in addition, a greater focus must be placed on job training to accommodate the city’s expanding high tech industry. Councilman James Lewis said Charleston’s search this year for a new fire chief and police chief will be noteworthy. But it’s something he considers will be business as usual.