"Congaree Fever"

Last week I heard a term I had not heard before in my four years in office – Congaree Fever.

I can’t remember what colleague mentioned it from the House floor but I do remember it was in reference to a former colleague who had shared the term and that he had “caught it”. He realized it only after he lost his election.

He shared that he had forgotten whose support and votes matter most. Whose voice he was sent to be in Columbia. Who he was representing.

It wasn’t supposed to be the other 123 House members. It was his district, his people, his state.

Congaree Fever is said to occur when elected officials worry about what their colleagues in Columbia (where the Congaree River flows) think of them. Congaree Fever is when those officials look to gain the support of their colleagues and their colleagues’ votes at a later date instead of remembering and thinking of the people who sent them to Columbia in the first place.

The term is also called “waiting on the Blatt precinct” to come in (to re-elect you to office). You see, the Blatt Building is where the House members’ offices are located and – as most people know – each district in the state has several voting precincts; but none of those are in the Blatt Building. Members with Congaree Fever are always waiting on that Blatt precinct votes to come in on election night…but back home, when the people vote….the Blatt precinct has never and will never come.

Today, I shared similar thoughts with some colleagues. You see, many of us feel we were sent to represent what our constituents back home – as well as the majority of our state, in our opinion – believe and want.

Today it was vetoes and today I sustained more than I overrode. Several others did as well.

Were we “carrying the Governor’s water”? No. If we had sustained all of them, one might could make that argument. But are we viewed as siding with the Governor over our colleagues? Yes.

The water we carry is from home. Our constituents. The voters we represent.

If you ask most people in the state, they would agree officials are spending too much and/or they’re not disclosing where the money’s going. A reporter picked up on something earlier this week that shows apparently there still isn’t full disclosure where your tax dollars are going.

It’s one thing to argue whether officials spend too much or not. It’s an entirely different argument when the details of how/where that money is being spent aren’t even shared with the public.

Were our decisions personal? No. Where they taken that way by the representatives who would have rather us voted another way? For some – yes.

One member (and if that member is reading, you asked me to put you in the blog but I never disclose specific names) asked me if I had ever read the book “How to Make Friends”. As I told him, no, I haven’t.

And if that book tells me to catch Congaree Fever, to vote against what I hear from my constituents, to fold under peer-pressure, to “go along to get along”, to make people happy so they’ll “like me”…well then, I don’t want to read it. Apparently, there are others in the body as well that don’t want to read it either.

I saw some people today take tough stands today. I’ve seen it before. Many damaged relationships with colleagues but many stood by the belief that we are to vote our conscience, vote as our constituents wish/ask (when appropriate) and vote how we think the state as a whole would benefit.

One colleague reminded us “the vetoes total only $70 million out of a $7 billion budget (one percent)”. Yes, that’s true….but the votes have been/should be and are no different when it’s more or less money.

At least we sustained roughly 20% today. That’s a start.

I just wonder whether this epidemic named Congaree Fever will ever be cured.