By Representative Jackie Hayes
June 23, 2011
In a special session that began June 14, the S.C. House approved two redistricting plans that I believe would be good for Dillon County. One plan revises the boundaries of the state’s 124 House districts and would largely keep District 55, which I represent, intact. The other plan, which redraws the U.S. Congressional districts, would put Dillon County and most of the Pee Dee Region in a new, seventh Congressional district. Currently, Dillon County is in Congressional District Five, represented by Congressman Mick Mulvaney. All the redistricting plans reflect population changes based on the 2010 U.S. Census. In the past decade, District 55 grew by nearly 1,340 people to a population of 32,062, and needs to take in new areas to come close to the new ideal population of 37,301 people per district. South Carolina’s population grew 15 percent in the past decade to 4.6 million.
The redistricting plan (H 3991) for state House districts was approved on third reading on June 15 in a vote of 82-23. While it is not a perfect plan, I believe it is a fair plan that could have been a lot worse. As a whole, I believe the redistricting process in the House was a fair process.
Under the House plan, District 55’s western edge would expand into Marlboro County and Darlington County. The district would encompass Mechanicsville in Darlington County and would border the towns of McColl, Clio and Blenheim, but the towns would stay in District 54, represented by Rep. Elizabeth Munnerlyn. An earlier map had put Clio completely in District 55 and would have split McColl down the middle between Districts 54 and 55. Rep. Munnerlyn and I fought to keep these communities largely intact.
The district would lose most of Latta to District 57, represented by Rep. Jim Battle, but I am confident Rep. Battle will do a good job of representing these folks.
Because the Pee Dee Region’s population as a whole decreased, Rep Neilson’s District 56 became a casualty. District 56 was merged with District 62 to form a new District 62 that will represent almost solely Darlington County. A new District 56 would l be added in Horry County, which experienced a population increase.
Districts were also added in Beaufort, York and Berkeley Counties, where population increased, and some districts were merged in and around Laurens, Greenville, Anderson, Hampton and Jasper Counties.
The House has adopted a Congressional redistricting plan (H 3992) that would add a seventh Congressional district as the result of the state’s population growth. The seventh district would cover most of the Pee Dee Region, including Dillon, Chesterfield, Marlboro, Darlington, Dillon, Marion and most of Florence Counties, as well as Horry and Georgetown Counties.
The Senate has come up with its own redistricting plan for the 46 state Senate districts. It is also expected to adopt a Congressional redistricting plan next week. Once the plans are adopted by both bodies, they will go to the Governor’s office for approval and afterwards will be sent to the U.S. Justice Department to make sure the plans do not violate minority voting rights. To view the redistricting plans, you may go to http://redistricting.schouse.gov/ or http://redistricting.scsenate.gov/.
In other action, the House and Senate approved a $6 billion budget compromise developed by a conference committee of six House and Senate member. Much of the debate in conference committee centered on how to spend $210 million that was added to budget projections for the next fiscal year because of the state’s improving economy. The Senate budget plan allotted half the funding towards improving the public school system and half towards giving businesses relief from an increase in unemployment insurance payments to the state.
House conferees asked the Senate conferees to increase the business relief funding to $146 million, and the Senate finally agreed. Specifically, the funds would be used to pay down the $933 million debt South Carolina owes the federal government. By paying down the debt, it would provide relief to businesses in the state. We’ve been told that $146 million, is needed to avoid paying penalties on the federal loan.
The state borrowed the federal money to help pay for unemployment claims by workers who were laid off during the recession. When the state’s debt to the federal government skyrocketed, a state law was passed to recoup funds from businesses, particularly those that laid off more people. Those employers have complained that their payments are too high. We were surprised when Governor Nikki Haley issued an Executive Order to call the Legislature back into session on June 7 to finalize some of her pet issues, including a restructuring bill that would establish a Department of Administration. The House approved the legislation (H 3066) in March but the Senate never finalized action on the bill before the session’s recess on June 2..
We believe Gov. Haley exceeded the scope of her power by seeking to call the Legislature back into session. The state Constitution allows the Governor to convene the General Assembly on “extraordinary occasions” but does not define the term. Ultimately, Gov. Haley was told by the S.C. Supreme Court that she could not order us back in session, because we were technically still in session, but on recess. So we came back on June 14, as we had earlier scheduled. If you have any questions or comments, contact me in Columbia at 803-734-3099, at 333D Blatt Building, P.O. Box 11867, Columbia, S.C. 29211 or call me at home at 843-774-6125, at 240 Bermuda Road, Dillon, S.C. 29536.
By Representative Jackie Hayes