Legislators hear from residents

By Ben Robinson, Courier Staff

DACUSVILLE — Hundreds showed up at the old Dacusville Elementary last Thursday for the annual public meeting of the Pickens County Legislative Delegation.

Sen. Larry A. Martin shared memories from his days attending elementary school in the same building while growing up and being served meals in the former lunchroom, where the meeting was held.

Attending the meeting in addition to Martin were Rep. Phil Owens, Rep. Davey Hiott, Rep. B.R. Skelton and Rep. Joshua Putnam, who said his district once included most of Dacusville, but now includes areas of three counties.

Holley H. Ulbrich, vice president of the League of Women Voters of the Clemson area, addressed the delegation about ethics reform and landfill management.

“When a few, or perhaps more than a few, legislators misuse campaign money, fail to disclose their income sources and vote on matters from which they should recuse themselves, when we have ethics scandals that South Carolina has undergone in the last two decades, when legislators respond to ethics complaints by covering them up or slapping wrists, people become distrustful of government,” Ulbrich said. “The stigma belongs to a minority of legislators and is spread to all of them. We can restore faith in government by having greater accountability and transparency in state government.”

Ulbrich called ethics bill H3945, currently being considered in the senate, a “promising start on restoring trust between our citizens and their legislators,” and urged its passage.

“We believe that the excessive amount of out-of-state waste landing in South Carolina is not the kind of industry we want to attract or the kind of image we want to create,” Ulbrich said. “We also believe it is a blatant attack on home rule, particularly when solid waste management is one of the specific functions delegated to local government in the state constitution.”

Ulbrich feared legislators might be influenced by waste management companies, accepting more out-of-state waste and shortening the lifetime of their landfills.

“Large waste companies are interested in profits for their stockholders and do not create much of anything in South Carolina other than road hazards in transportation and unpleasant aroma in the area surrounding the landfill,” Ulbrich said. “County government is interested in meeting the long-term waste disposal needs of its residents at minimum cost and diversion of increasingly valuable land to waste disposal. We citizens see our officials on a daily basis, and we can remind them when they are not doing what we elected them to do. But we have no influence over more than 98 percent of the General Assembly because we get to vote for only two of its 170 members. So we rely upon you, our legislative delegation, to carry our concerns to your colleagues and urge them to do the right thing and leave solid waste disposal firmly in the hands of local governments.”

Eleanor Hare, Associate Professor Emerita of computer science at Clemson University, advocated new voting machines.

“We are facing the need to replace old voting machines in the not-too-distant future,” Hare said.

“These voting machines have not been manufactured for several years, and repair parts are becoming less available,” she said. “But they should be usable for a few years and, as the result of computer programs written by League members and then reconstructed by the State Elections Commission, quite reliably ensure that all votes have been collected from voting terminals and reported.”

Joyce Fishman Klein reported that she has been a resident of Pickens County for the past 32 years, though she retired from the Greenville Council for the Prevention of Teen Pregnancy after serving for 14 years. Klein asked for support for bill H-3435, which would amend the Comprehensive Health Education Health Act. The act was passed in 1988, but has not been updated in 25 years, she said.

The new act would ensure accountability, better teacher training and the teaching of medically accurate information.

“Let me share with you some statistics that might open your eyes to the seriousness of the issue,” Klein said. “South Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate ranked 10th in the U.S., while the teen birth rate currently ranks 12th in the U.S. Annually it costs S.C. taxpayers $197 million for teen pregnancy and the aftermath.”

Klein thanked Skelton for filing the bill.