OUR DEBATE!! (sort of...)

It has been almost 24 hours since the forum last evening at the Mount Pleasant Town Hall. This has given me time to reflect and review statements delivered by the 4 candidates.

It was my general feeling after discussing with forum participants, forum attendees, and others that there was a clear "winner" of the District 112 side of things. While this is a very positive review of my candidacy, as a constituent, I have to admit, I am extraordinarily concerned. I am even more determined to educate the people as to what is really going on with their seat, and I am more determined than ever to win in November. Things aren't as bad as I thought... they're much, much worse.

There were more than a few areas where each of the candidates were in agreement, such as Off-Shore Drilling, Gun Safety Reform, and Infrastructure, which is encouraging, especially given the status of political discourse in our country today.

There is a stark contrast between myself and my opponent when it comes to the issue of corruption and accountability. As a constituent, this is where my extraordinary level of concern exists.

When it comes to the VC Summer debacle and the issues surrounding SCANA, my opponent believes this is an internal issue to SCE and G and SCANA, and that the legislature is not responsible for this failure. For the record, even the incumbent in the 110th district, who participated in last evenings forum, and is from the same party as my opponent, believes the legislature has at least some culpability with our energy woes.

When asked the question: "How do you feel about the future outlook of SCE and G in the state of South Carolina?", here were our answers:

My Opponent: "I supported repeal of the BLRA. This is not an issue of the Legislature, but corruption in SCE and G. Every vote I have taken has been with the ratepayer in mind. Dominion will be fine. Solar is the new way to go. The legislature will likely be appointing a new PSC board in the new session.

My Answer: "No other issue is as indicative of the culture of Corruption in Columbia, as this issue. The real truth is there isn't any oversight of the utilities because the utilities are paying the legislators. I personally haven't taken any campaign contributions from SCANA, not everybody up here (the dais) can say that. (My opponent has taken $4,000 from SCANA and $8,000 from the energy lobby) It also comes down to accountability. We have an issue both Democrat and Republican, where we allow these statehouse seats to go unchallenged. Ours has been unchallenged since 1996. When you have no accountability to your voters, you have no accountability at all.

It is also quite disingenuous to claim that solar is the "future" when my opponent was the deciding vote on raising the 2% cap on residential solar generation, which failed by one vote.

Even the Republican incumbent in the 110th district stated: "We've talked about accountability, and we've talked about the culture of corruption. When I first got up there (Columbia) that was the first thing that was so obvious to me. Yeah, we've got people in power who don't want to see their power go away."

My opponent is only concerned with seniority. He stated "It's all about politics and power, seniority". and even harkened back to the days where Speaker Harrell (Indicted on corruption and forced to resign from office in disgrace) was in the leadership.

I responded: "for a Democrat, seniority is not an issue. There are so few, that seniority isn't even a part of the equation". There are currently 80 Republicans and 44 Democrats.

At the end of the day, being in office for 10 years and having a seat on the Ways and Means Committee has not meant anything to the constituents of this district. Budgetary issues have not abated, and we still find ourselves stuck in the same rut on infrastructure spending and putting money into education. Meaning that while my opponent gains power and stature, his constituents are left going without. From this constituent's perspective, why wouldn't we want a change?

Back in my days in the fire service, I used to get in trouble for my mouth a lot. No matter the issue, I always felt it best for my company to understand where I stood on issues and advocate for those issues with department leadership. The 112th district needs someone who is not afraid of the "system", making waves, or upsetting leadership. I don't want to go to Columbia to serve them. I am going to Columbia to serve my community as I have in the past.

My friends, my opponent made it crystal clear last evening, how he feels about being held accountable. I think it is time we show him that the voters want accountability. The voters want an advocate. The voters are done with politics as usual.

Its time for a change, and 3 people out of 4 participating in the forum last evening agree.

Representative means representing

10/3/18 was "Veto Override" day in the South Carolina General Assembly.

Overrides are generally non-controversial, but there are a few I believe that offer a window into whether individual legislators are really following the "will of the people", and which legislators are following the wishes of the special interests.
The first can be taken together, as they are of the same subject:
Veto 10 - Proviso 117.125: Pittman-Robertson Funds State Match.
Veto 11 - Proviso 117.126: North American Wetlands Conservation Act State Match.

We saw last weekend that a group of at least 200 individuals from bipartisan and non-partisan backgrounds paddle-boarded, kayaked, swam, or otherwise self-propelled to Crab Bank in order to raise awareness for the migratory species of birds and diverse marine life that dwell there. The Coastal Conservation League has said restoring it is vital to the survival of at least 15 species of birds including brown pelicans, skimmers, terns and oystercatchers.

The Pittman-Robertson funds and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act funds have the ability to be used here. This is a missed opportunity for federal funds and State matching fund grants to be used for exactly their intended use... protecting our coastal waters, protecting our marine life, and protecting migratory bird species.

By and large the Charleston County House Delegation voted to override these vetoes on a BIPARTISAN basis. In fact, the 112th district DIRECTLY abuts Crab Bank. I would have voted to override these vetoes. My opponent voted to sustain them.

Veto 37 - CBD Pilot Program within the Dept. of Corrections. Proviso 65.29

This proviso gives the Dept. of Corrections the ability to initiate a study committee with MUSC, DHHS, and DMH to explore the use of cannabidiol oil, also known as CBD oil, in a therapeutic manner for eligible incarcerated individuals using existing funds. This proviso did not appropriate new funding for the program.

Further, given this study committee would include medical supervision from MUSC, DHHS, and DMH, an eligible individual would NOT be able to participate in the study without written consent, as this violates medical ethical principals and existing state and federal law.

The current treatment of mental health issues within the incarcerated population is horrendous... at best. This study would have given another potential tool in the tool box for providers to have at their disposal while treating these issues.

This proviso includes adequate ethical supervision, doesn't impact the taxpayer, and has the ability to have potential impacts outside of the incarcerated population, while potentially helping our prisoners and corrections officers.

I would have voted to override.

As a matter of fact, the ENTIRE Charleston County Legislative Delegation voted to override... save one member, my opponent.

Veto 39 - Proviso 1A.87

The Department of Revenue must directly allocate the funds appropriated under VIII. F. Partnerships for John de la Howe for teacher salaries to McCormick County School District to create a school within a school program to educate at-risk students, including students at John de la Howe who attend McCormick County schools. The program must use an accelerated curriculum which utilizes multimedia/multimodal learning activities to ensure academic success and development of leadership and communication skills.

This proviso also included $418,000 in funding to be transferred to McCormick County Schools from the agricultural school.

The real issue here is that 3 years ago, the House studied the school (John de la Howe) and found that the best outcome for the taxpayers of our state was to close the school and place the agriculture program in the purview of the McCormick County Schools. The school subsequently lost accreditation for K-12.

There is currently new leadership at the school, and a promise that things will turn around.

Kenny Rogers sang about one needing to know "when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em". For the taxpayers of our state, I believe it is time to fold 'em. This issue is literally throwing good money after bad. The McCormick County School System is more than equipped to stretch the taxpayer dollar further with existing infrastructure and facilities.

My fear is that the school has become a money pit and all this veto represents is an attempt to delay the inevitable while squandering taxpayer monies.

I would have voted in the affirmative to override this veto.

My opponent voted in the negative to continue wasting taxpayer money.

That brings us to the last veto:
Veto 42 - Part 1A, Page 76, Section 33, Department of Health & Human Services, II. Program and Services, A. Health Services, 3. Medical Assistance Payments, Family Planning, Total Funds: $15,779,259, General Funds: $2,208,596

This is the so-called “Planned Parenthood” veto. Make NO mistake about it, this veto does NO SUCH THING. Planned Parenthood only receives about $80,000 from the state, or ½ of 1% of total allocated funds.
This veto removes almost 15.8 million dollars from DHEC for family planning under the guise of saving lives. This veto will unfortunately have almost the exact opposite impact.

A 21st century populace requires 21st century solutions that are evidence-based and firmly lodged in the fact. The fact is that taking money away from the family planning line item DIRECTLY and disproportionately impacts low- and middle-income women and women in marginalized communities who receive healthcare via Medicaid. Further, when we take funds away from family planning, it increases the incidence of unwanted pregnancy, cervical cancer, and sexually transmitted disease.

This veto represents nothing more than an attack on women and the specialized healthcare services that they require, all in an effort to move the political football down the field.
I would have voted PROUDLY to override.
My opponent decided to vote against women, facts, and science.

I hope I have provided some insight via this posting into how I intend on representing the 112th district in the SC House, and am making very clear that I will stand up for our constituents, our environment, our children’s education, mental health, and women’s health, unlike my opponent, who will stand up for corporations and special interests.

Thoughts and Prayers

    Here we are again. Mere hours since another senseless tragedy involving the loss of life of our children. As a parent, watching these tragedies unfold in our nations schools has been quite difficult. Every day, my wife and I send our kids off to the bus stop for the school system (read our government) to teach them, and then, most importantly transfer custody of our children back to us at the end of the school day. Of all of the unwritten contracts that have been drawn over the years between the taxpayer and the government, this one in particular is of paramount importance.

    Our governmental officials are not fulfilling their contractual obligation. We have lawmakers at current who are either complicit and on the payroll of the gun lobby, willfully ignorant as they covet these same campaign contributions, or heartless. This is not what our government is supposed to represent. The government is supposed to be …of the people, by the people, and for the people., not the will of the largest campaign contributor, corporation, or Super PAC.

    As of the recent tragedy in Florida, there have been a total of 18 school related shootings in the United States in the first 45 days of the new year. In these 18 shootings, 30 have been killed and at least 39  have been injured (there have yet to be released numbers from Florida on the number of sustained injuries). This is unacceptable by any standard. Yet, when lawmakers are faced with the task of doing something…anything to change these statistics, we get the obligatory “thoughts and prayers” followed by “its time to let the families grieve” updated to “this is not the time….”.

    In honor of those killed by guns within the walls of what should be considered the safest of places in our society, I will no longer be offering mere thoughts and prayers. The time for thoughts and prayers has come and gone. I instead pledge my heartfelt condolences and action. Condolences for the grief and tragedy that these parents and families are experiencing. It is beyond my own personal comprehension what they are experiencing. I also hope I will never be in their shoes. Families and parents that have gone through this experience and those who may in the future have this experience form an elite club. The price of admission is much too great for anyone to wish to obtain membership. They have my utmost respect, compassion, and sympathy.

    It is for these reasons that I also pledge action. I pledge to take meaningful action that does not infringe on the constitutional rights of our citizens, but also ensures that those who wish to obtain firearms are lawfully obliged to do so. The approach I take is pragmatic, has a chance of actually being written into law, and protects individual liberty.

    First, legislators need to fix the manner in which state and local agencies report to national instant criminal background check system. Legislation has already been filed (S516) to streamline this process across state agencies and the interface with the national database.

    Second, should any individual be voluntarily or involuntarily hospitalized with an issue related to mental health, the hospital shall report this to the NICS and that individual will have a temporary protective order placed upon their status, and they will not be able to receive a firearm of any type until cleared by a licensed mental health professional of any mental health impairment that precludes them from obtaining a firearm. Types of mental health impairments that would preclude an individual from obtaining a firearm are: self-injurious behavior, wishing to cause harm to self or others, major depression with suicidal ideations, any other mental illness or disorder that is described in the DSM-V as being threatening to life or limb of self or others.

    Third, increased funding to provide every single school in the state with a full-time student resource officer. The student resource officer should be a “plain clothes” police officer who shall be armed with a concealed weapon, but not identified as such to the student body. THE SRO should also cause minimal intraday interruption to curricular learning.

    Fourth, if we have learned anything from the multitude of school-based tragedies over the past 20 years, it is that the individual(s) who carry out these acts are suffering from an unidentified mental health issue as described above. In most cases these issues are long-standing and undiagnosed. We need to increase the access to mental heath professionals as a function of our global healthcare system. Every health care policy sold within the borders of our state must have coverage at minimal cost to the end user for access to mental health care. 

    Fifth, I am fully aware of the fact that gun violence is not carried out by only those who obtain weapons legally, but by those who obtain them illegally. By its very nature, an illegal weapon should not be used by anyone in any circumstance, but they are, this is the reality we face. So, to curb illegal gun violence, we have got to reduce the number of firearms that are available illegally. I prefer a 3-pronged approach to this issue.

First, there needs to be increases in the penalty for those who obtain firearms through so called “straw purchases”. The current penalty for both the purchaser and the individual for whom the purchase is made is “up to” 5 years in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both. This is also the penalty for any felony firearms charge. This is again woefully inadequate. The penalty for straw purchases should be a minimum of 20 years jail time and a fine of $20,000 (note the use of the word “and”). This is the main way illegal firearms make their way onto the street, so the punishment should be accordingly severe.

Second, if a firearm is used during the commission of a felony, the above sentence of imprisonment, fine, or both is again applied. I would be inclined to double the penalty for this circumstance to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $4,000 and have the penalty include both the sentence and the fine, rather than ambiguity.

Third, any individual found to be in possession of a firearm which has previously been reported as stolen or has been acquired through any other illegal means shall be subject to imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of $4,000 plus restitution to the original owner.

                None of what I am proposing should be interpreted as anything more than gun safety reform. What I am proposing keeps guns out of the hands of those who wish to only do harm to others or themselves while simultaneously preserving individual and personal liberty. Our children’s lives are our most precious commodity and we should do anything and everything to ensure they are safe at school and in their own homes. My proposals focus on common sense, punishes criminals, and keeps the government out of the lives of law abiding citizens. It is also providing something more substantial than a mere offer of thoughts and prayers and then going right back to the status quo.

Leadership (or lack therof)

     Leader is more than a word or title for one who supervises others. A leader accepts responsibility when doing the right thing is not necessarily the popular thing. A leader demands accountability when there is a lack of performance, while subsequently crediting others during periods of success. Leaders take the blame when things are going wrong and gives the credit to others when things are going right.  Leadership is not a tangible asset, but is a concept built on various character traits such as integrity, dependability, honesty, and imagination among many others.

     I served my community as a firefighter for thirteen years. I began as a probationary firefighter, completed fire training school, was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant, a position I held for six years, and finally left the fire service having attained the rank of Captain, which I held for 3 years. The titles I held made me a supervisor. Having my peers recognize that I possess the character traits necessary of a successful leader and having them select me to progressively higher ranks within our department is what molded me into a leader.

     A successful leader on the fire ground is one who thinks and acts instinctively. Mental risk vs. benefit analyses are run constantly while directing operations. This type of leadership requires one to fall back upon his or her extensive training and make instantaneous decisions that have potential life and death consequences. Such leadership is a rare commodity, even on the fire ground. It is exceptionally rare in todays politics.

     From the White House to the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. and the Governors mansion to the statehouse right here in Columbia, there is a complete and total abdication of the responsibilities of leadership. This is not hyperbole. It has been demonstrated to us time and again, at every single level of government.

     There has been a complete abandonment of leadership responsibility in our state. The current Governor decided that it was not in the best interest of the taxpaying citizens to have their children transported to school in busses that don’t catch fire. Luckily the General Assembly saw this as the significant safety issue that it is and as soon as the legislative session returned in January, quickly overrode the bus veto by a significant margin in the House and unanimously in the Senate. The General Assembly has brought us the VC Summer debacle, the Pascoe probe, and the extreme partisan gerrymandering; the culture of corruption has become as much of a part of the statehouse as the statue of John C. Calhoun that greets you in the lobby. Elected officials are demonstrating that they only care about attaining power, retaining that power, and using their office to enrich themselves personally.

                We elect our legislators to represent our will, not to utilize their office for personal enrichment or the needs of the special interests and lobbying groups.

                Our schools rank dead last in the nation.

                Our state ranks dead last in the nation for roads safety.

     We rank 48th in economic Opportunity, 46th in Health Care Affordability, 43rd in infrastructure and household income, 42nd in labor force participation, 4th worst in Property Crime, 5th worst in domestic violence, 6th worst in violent crime, and 7th worst for violent crime.

     By any metric, these statistics show a total, complete, and utter failure of our state government on every single level to operate in the best interest of the taxpayer. These statistics show a complete abdication of the responsibilities of leadership.

     It is time for the residents of Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, and Mount Pleasant to elect a proven leader to the statehouse who believes in the values of honesty, integrity, and dependability. We need a leader who will stand up and fight for what is right, not what is politically expedient. The people of the 112th district agree. I will stand up to the special interests and lobbying groups and tell them to keep their hands off our wallets. I will fight to ensure that no matter a family’s socioeconomic status that they receive a quality education. I will fight for healthcare reform including Medicaid expansion. I will fight for responsible development and work with the local municipalities on finding solutions to the traffic gridlock and increasing access and delivery of economical public transit. I will fight for our environment to retain the natural beauty of our homes and ensure that not one single oil derrick is placed off our shore. I will fight for economic prosperity and ensure that anyone who wishes to have a good, quality, high paying job is able to get one. I will fight against the culture of corruption in our statehouse and bring honesty and integrity back to our institutions. Most importantly, I will fight for the people of our district.

                The people of our district and our state deserve to have an ethical and honest leader who is not afraid to live by the saying “it’s not about who is right, it’s about what is right” 



*statistics courtesy of US News and World Report https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/south-carolina and the State newspaper http://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article127439174.html *