Under the Dome

While thousands of Gamecock fans (me included) will be focused on the Georgia Dome in 3 weeks , there’s a lot of activity going on under the State House dome this week that (in reality) most average voters could either care less about or are not aware of happening.

Today and tomorrow, the 20 recently elected members of the SC House of Representatives are having “freshman orientation” . There are 17 new Republican members and 3 new Democratic members. I imagine like other classes, they will elect their officers during this time. (It should be noted that 6 years ago, our freshman class elected then-Representative Nikki Haley to serve as our chairman).

Wednesday and Thursday, the House will have our Reorganizational Session. All House members will be in attendance (unless excused absence) and we will lay the groundwork for the next two years.

Among other items, we will pick our chamber seats for the next two years. You may be interested to know this process literally involves the Speaker (or his designee) pulling county names out of a bowl and that county delegation getting their choice of location. At the beginning of the day, all names are removed from the chamber desks so that there is a “clean slate”. As county names are called, the seats begin to fill. Almost always, each delegation sits beside/near each other. As a representative for both Richland and Lexington counties, I actually have to “declare” which county I will sit with in order to not be able to go with the one that is called first.

We’ll also be electing our officials. From the Chaplain and Reading Clerk to the Speaker of the House and Speaker Pro Tem. We’ll also vote on committees like Ethics and Invitations. All House members vote on those races.

I’m not sure of the Democrats details but we Republicans also have a race for Majority Leader to decide.

While many “under the dome” get in a lather over these races, most the general public really don’t get involved in the drama. This year there have been vocal groups involved in the Speakers’ race but for the most part, this stuff is generally “inside baseball”.

I expect the races won’t even be close and I’ll post more about the vote (or rather my rationale) later this week. Choosing among colleagues is very difficult especially if we allow “politics” to get involved (and, obviously, it does). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m loyal to a fault to my friends. I’m hopeful that regardless of votes, this will be a year with no retribution (active or passive) and that we start to build bridges instead of putting up walls.

Those who have announced their intentions to run for the “bigger positions” are: SPEAKER: Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) and Ralph Norman (R-York). SPEAKER PRO TEM: Jay Lucas (R-Darlington). HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Kenny Bingham (R-Lexington) and Shannon Erickson (R-Beaufort).

Soon after those elections, we’ll all receive notice of what committee the Speaker has assigned us to for the upcoming session. Then, each committee will elect a chairman/chairwoman. We usually learn everyon’e assignment at the same time when the sheets are passed out to all members in the chamber. Presently there are the following vacancies:

Agriculture 2
Education 5
Judiciary 3
LCI 2
3M 3
Ways and Means 5 (expect 6 should Jay Lucas become Speaker Pro Tem. Pro Tem does not serve on a committee and Rep. Lucas currently serves on Ways and Means)

It will be interesting to see where members are assigned and how the committees will look next session. There is important work to be done and if everyone is allowed to play to their strengths and talents, much can be accomplished for our state. Dum Spiro, Spero, right?