Leadership Charleston State Government Day Recap

Written by Leadership Charleston Class of 2021 participant Leslie Skardon, Senior Associate of Client Partnership for Global Prairie

Leadership Charleston and Leadership Greenville combined forces for our “State Government Day.” While we missed being in the halls of the State Supreme Court, visiting the House and Senate chambers in Columbia and the opportunity to ask our elected officials questions face-to-face due to COVID and heightened security since the events of January 6, there were some benefits to going virtual. We got to hear from Representatives in Washington who otherwise would not have been able to join us, and we also got a flavor of representation across the state, expanding past the usual Charleston delegation to Greenville.

  • We started with an informative session that details “How a Bill Becomes a Law” – it’s more complicated than School House Rock would have you believe. Incredibly, 1,457 bills have been filed in the first few weeks of this legislative session.
  • My favorite panel was with journalists from The Post and Courier, The State and The Associated Press. Their role, to hold lawmakers, businesses and lobbyists accountable, is paramount and it was disheartening to hear about the decline in credible, local media outlets.
  • The lobbyist panel made the case that their profession is critical, repeating: “you wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer, and you shouldn’t go to the State House without a lobbyist.” They, like the lawmaker panels, emphasized the importance of relationships and building trust with legislators and fellow lobbyists and the cardinal rule of “never burning a bridge.”
  • We heard from S.C. Supreme Court Justice John Few. This was a very helpful session for the non-lawyers on the line, detailing the different courts in South Carolina and how they work. We learned about how one is appointed to the Supreme Court (and again the importance of relationships) and the importance of jury duty.

While being virtual did provide the opportunity to hear from some of our South Carolina elected officials, I would have appreciated a more balanced representation. We heard from our Republican Governor, two Congressional Republicans and a number of Republican lawmakers from Greenville, with only two Democrats making an appearance. In a state where 43% of the population voted for a Democrat for Congress in the 2020 election (and only have 14% of the representation in Congress), it would have been beneficial to hear multiple viewpoints on important legislation hitting the floor this session. While legislators preached the need for collegiality and working together, there wasn’t much representation from across the aisle, and for the most part, we only heard one set of talking points.

A bright spot of the day was the focus on the Chamber’s agenda for the year, which has a strong emphasis on criminal justice. The Chamber, rightly so, has targeted their legislative agenda on making the business case – for example, showing the direct connection between the need to pass a hate crimes bill and how that will positively impact business in the state. My hope is that these arguments do not fall on deaf ears and that the legislature prioritizes state-wide educational reforms, healthcare and environmental protections that would make South Carolina work for everyone.

Written by Leadership Charleston Class of 2021 participant Leslie Skardon, Senior Associate of Client Partnership for Global Prairie

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