Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fundamental Changes

Three weeks into the 2008 Legislative Session, I have come to the conclusion that some changes need to take place in the South Carolina House of Representatives because I think that we waste an enormous amount of time. If you have followed the House calendar thus far, you would agree that we have not had very much legislative action on the House floor and the only reasoning that I see behind actually going into Session each day is to record attendance and introduce bills. We did take up an important rule change dealing with earmarks, but that could have been taken up anytime prior to the budget. Here are my thoughts - which might formulate into a piece of legislation:

There has been talk in the past of shortening the Legislative Session. I don't think we should shorten it - just reorganize our order of business:

For the first four weeks of the Session, sub-committees and committees should meet - just like they are doing now. If you are a member of the sub-committee or committee, have a bill before one of these committees, or if you are interested in the topic/hearing, etc., then you come to Columbia. If you have legislative work to do during this time, you come to Columbia. There would be no floor recorded attendance.

If you are there during the first four weeks, you record your attendance with the desk administrator on your office floor and you will get paid normal per diem, mileage, etc. just like now. the only savings for the House would be for the members who don't come down on certain days - but the goal isn't necessarily about fiscal savings - it is about being productive.

Let the committees meet and crank out some legislation. Allow bills to be introduced and read across the desk, assigned to committee just as if the body were in Session. All the committees could work and would have a more flexible schedule for committee meetings. I believe that the bills would get a more thorough study by the committees, we could possibly get through the budget quicker since Ways and Means could have multiple sub-committee hearings on the same day, and once we got on the Legislative calendar we could have more productive floor time.

Maybe one day.................

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Defining Renewable

The South Carolina House Environmental II sub-Committee, Chaired by Rep. Dwight Loftis, met yesterday to take up a Senate bill that attempted to define "renewable energy."

The SC Senate had included "nuclear energy" as a renewable resource. Listening to the debate, I asked myself "What is the underlying question here?" I concluded that the question yesterday was whether or not to keep "nuclear" in the definition of "renewable" and whether nuclear is renewable. The environmental community testified that they did not want nuclear energy included. I have given the topic a lot of thought and research, so here is a summary of my thoughts:

Isn't the environmental community sort of at odds with itself over this issue, when taken in the "Global Warming" context. There are virtually no air emissions issues with nuclear energy, especially carbon emissions. The real concern is the by-product or waste product produced in nuclear energy. How do we dispose of this waste, safely for human populations as well as the environment? I share this concern and plan a visit to Yucca Mountain to see the national storage site for myself soon, as part of my education on the issues of the day.

Even with my concerns over the future of storing nuclear waste, I believe that nuclear energy expansion is the answer to many of our future energy needs - and I believe that the US is behind the curve on nuclear energy supply and technology. In addition, I believe that nuclear produced electricity is cleaner and more friendly to the atmosphere than any other conventional means of electricity production. And, unlike air emissions, we have some control over the nuclear waste in that it is in a manageable, tangible form that we can contain.

The question of the day, though, was: should nuclear be included in the definition of "renewable." My research concludes that: 1. The US Dept. of Energy does not include it in the definition, but they have also been part of the policy implementations of the past 30+ years that delayed and discouraged the proliferation of nuclear energy for electricity; 2. Well respected nuclear physicist Bernard Cohen (Google his name for more) stated as early as 1983: "We thus conclude that all the world’s energy requirements for the remaining 5×109 yr of existence of life on Earth could be provided by breeder reactors without the cost of electricity rising by as much as 1% due to fuel costs. This is consistent with the definition of a “renewable” energy source in the sense in which that term is generally used."

All sides will have a differing opinion on the definition of renewable, just as we will all have differing opinions over the extent of man's impact on the environment versus the earth's own natural cycles. I am currently not advocating one position over the other. Nor am I falling for a lot of spin on the issue of Global Warming. I am educating myself on the issues in the hope of forming my own opinion, and I don't have an economic gain or loss either way, unlike many others in the debate. I personally don't see a problem with including nuclear in the definition of renewable, if it helps move the ball down the field toward the goal of more nuclear energy for electricity production; but, I don't see a problem with commonsense conservation either, and I applaud the environmentalist movement for encouraging energy conservation, investments in wind, solar and alternative fuels technologies.

All, I believe, are part of the solution to make us less dependent on foreign fossil fuels and better stewards of God's creation.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Immigration Reform SC Style 2008

Well, with the 2008 Legislative Session scheduled to kick in gear today, January 8th, Immigration Reform is the "Topic de Jour." Speaker Bobby Harrell and the SC House Republican Caucus has embraced the idea and went public on Monday with the plan. Now the SC Senate is saying "Hey, just pass the Senate Bill currently sitting in a House Committee."

I am just glad to see this topic start to pick up steam. With the US Congress failing to do anything substantive, and with them focusing so much on amnesty (giving citizenship and citizenship rights to illegal immigrants), the states are having to address the issue of what state services we want to see our citizen's hard earned taxpayer dollars paying to provide to immigrants who are in our state and our country illegally.

That is really what it all boils down to with me: do we continue to use your tax dollars to pay for goods and services that we as a state provide for our citizens and allow them to be used to pay for illegal immigrant's access to healthcare, public education, corrections and the like.

Some folks say that it is "un-Constitutional" for the states to address this issue. I disagree and here is why: The US Constitution says that any power not specifically spelled out as a power belonging to the Federal Government, nor prohibited, by that same document - the Constitution, to the states (meaning that individual states may not exercise that power), shall be reserved to the states and/or to the people. I don't see anything in the Constitution that says that the individual states may not decide which goods and services the state will provide with state taxpayer dollars and to whom these are provided.

Press on South Carolina General Assembly, Press On!