by ANNE MARIE GREEN || As a Lexington County school board trustee, I have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of autonomy that our board has over schools in our district. We are locally elected officials and are closest to the voters, yet we are not even allowed to set basic policy that should be locally controlled – like our school district’s start date.
Why? Because the lawmakers in Columbia have taken that power into their own hands.
As my frustration grew, I started looking at many of the problems plaguing South Carolina and realized the common denominator was the power that our legislature holds and refuses to let go:
Neglected roads: The legislature has handed the S.C Department of Transportation (SCDOT) one unfunded mandate after another, forcing statutorily-set road maintenance funds to be diverted to pet and local projects.
Neglected school buses: The legislature overrode a 2007 veto from governor Mark Sanford to pass a law requiring the state department of education to replace 1/15th of the State’s school bus fleet every year. The legislature has provided funding for that mandate only twice.
Neglected ratepayers: The legislature listened to utility lobbyists and passed the Base Load Review Act. They delegated responsibility for overseeing SCANA’s rate increases to an unelected commission that is unaccountable to ratepayers or taxpayers.
Neglected schools: The legislature has failed to meet their statutory obligation to provide adequate and equitable education for all of SC’s children by failing to fully fund the Base Student Cost.
Neglected state pension system: The legislature has failed for decades to address the imbalance between contributions and benefits and a lack of transparency in the management of investments.
Neglected local services: The legislature fails to provide a reliable revenue source for cities and towns by annually underfunding the Local Government Fund. The legislature inhibits effective and flexible local solutions to needs and priorities by limiting the fiscal autonomy of locally-elected officials.
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South Carolina is a legislative state, where all of the power is held in the hands of our legislators. We have a weak governor, a judicial branch in which our judges have to grovel and beg legislators for their jobs, and locally elected officials that have no autonomy to serve the voters that elected them.
The 19th century historian and politician Lord Acton stated, “power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The ethics problems that continue to be a hallmark of our State House persist because all of the power in South Carolina is held in just a few hands in the House and Senate and the power has been in those same hands for a long, long time.
I concluded, after thorough research and study (and a lot of prayer!), that the only way to make a difference in our schools, in our community, and for my family and yours was to go the State House myself and try to take the control and power held there and give it back to our communities.
I am committed to doing the hard work necessary to tackle these, and other, big obstacles that stand in the way of moving our State forward. I would be honored and humbled to represent the people of House District 69 in the S.C. General Assembly.
Anne Marie Green is a board member of Lexington County school district one and a candidate for S.C. House District 69 in next Tuesday’s special runoff election.
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