Wednesday, August 14, 2013
If there is a gene for “politician,” Paul Thurmond certainly has it.
The young senator and son of former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond addressed a crowd of about 20 on Aug. 5 at the monthly Berkeley County Republican Women meeting.
The gathering took place at the Berkeley Electric Cooperative building on Springhall Drive in Goose Creek.
Thurmond’s S.C. Senate District 41 represents parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties. Thurmond, who lives on James Island, gave an overview of his rookie year as a senator to an audience that included House Dist. 92 Rep. Joe Daning (R-S.C.), Moncks Corner Mayor Bill Peagler and Berkeley County Clerk of Court Mary Brown.
“I want to talk about doing things differently in the senate,” Thurmond said.
He removed the door from his senate office because closed-door meetings should not take place in public buildings, he said. Thurmond didn’t accept the senate license plate because he should not have special privileges as an elected official, he added.
“I don’t look at the opportunity for me to separate myself from the public,” Thurmond said. “In Columbia everybody knows you. It’s like ‘Cheers.’”
He said he didn’t miss a single day and only missed a handful of votes while participating in hundreds.
“I do have a business (Thurmond, Kirchner, Timbes and Yelverton, PA) and three kids and one on the way,” Thurmond said. “I wanted to make sure I was involved. There is a pecking order. I’m getting used to that pecking order.
“A senator told me I should be pleased they let freshmen talk. You have got to learn the rules, there’s a thick book.”
Thurmond said there are 10 to 12 senators who really run things. They are usually committee chairmen.
Rules can be manipulated in a negative way so senators can introduce a bill that goes to their committee and sits there until right before the May deadline for changeover.
“I didn’t get anything from not using the rules to my advantage,” Thurmond said. “I thought it would build camaraderie. It did not. I introduced 10 bills. Five passed. The ones that didn’t were introduced much later.
“I introduced bills that would make a difference in people’s lives. In South Carolina if you’re over 60 you can go to college for free if you’re not working.”
He said he voted for Bill S-259 that allows anyone over 60 who qualifies to take free classes as long as classes are open and students are not bumped.
“I introduced legislation (S-412) to end the blackout period when you can’t see who is giving campaign contributions right before an election,” he said.
Now candidates must show receipts for contributions of $250 or more received in the 20 days before an election.
“I passed a bill (S-503 to enact ‘Beach Preservation Act’) to let coastal municipalities pass a one percent tax,” he said. “The chamber didn’t like that. It’s like killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Thurmond introduced a bill (S-700, Destruction of Criminal Records) to have mug shots removed from websites for people who are criminally charged but not convicted, found not guilty, or had their case dismissed.
He said it normally costs hundreds of dollars to hire private companies to remove such mug shots from web sites. He called this extortion. Now citizens need only ask a person or entity’s website to remove their mug shot within 30 days of making such a request.
Thurmond also spoke of areas where spending needs to be cut.
“I’m not convinced K4 (kindergarten for 4-year-olds) does anything,” he said. “It’s more of a daycare. It hasn’t been proven to work. I don’t want to spend money on things that don’t work. I have small children (ages 8, 5 and 2).
“I’m going to be fighting like crazy against the gasoline tax. Gas will go by the wayside. We’re going to more efficient cars.”
Thurmond said he lobbied against funding the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) and the Darling NASCAR race with taxpayer money. “SEWE made $200,000. They ask us for money. They said they had past debt. So taxpayers should pay for them to mismanage their budget?”
As he follows in his dad’s footsteps, Thurmond said he is enjoying the challenge.
“My hope is to serve with dignity and sincerity,” he said. “I am in no way perfect, but I’m working on it.”