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Life on Gervais Street
Jonathan Pait
January 21, 2004

It was fun to get back to Columbia while our state government was in session. It had been a while since I visited the city with any political intentions. I guess one thing you learn is that some things are always the same.

One of the first things you notice coming up Gervais is the banner that always seems to hang across the street announcing some sort of activity. It would be cool if they would put some sort of jumbo-tron screen up there. Hey, maybe the state could purchase it, put ads up there, and generate some more revenue! I’m sure the idea came up in some MAP Commission meeting.

The pro-life/anti-abortion protesters were out there. They seem as permanent as the banner across Gervais. I had to admire their commitment to the cause. I wonder if they have changed any minds – or hearts.

Parking is always fun – at least for us common folk. The legislature and executives get to park in the labyrinth that exists beneath the State House compound. I was running late so I went to my normal parking spot, filled up my meter with quarters and sprinted for the Blatt Building. Thankfully, on my way out of town I got a nice spot right on Main Street as I went into the Atlanta Bread Company for a coffee to go. Thanks to the guy who left an hour on that meter! Oh, another tip for some businessperson in Columbia: the city has no Dunkin Donuts.

A thank you also goes out to my Representative, Gloria Haskins. She took me under her wing as we visited the House Republican Caucus meeting and then the House and Senate. She is a quiet but steady voice amongst the more noticeable Representatives. However, I have learned that the quiet demeanor can hide a very tenacious spirit. She is very protective of those people close to her – and I believe of those she serves.

In the caucus meeting, I felt as though I should be running for a circuit judge position. It appeared that all the candidates were seeking face time with the Representatives. I took some time to seek out members of our Greenville delegation. Of course, they all had kind words to say about Bob Jones University.  Some shared stories of recent encounters with Bob Jones III. That was the day his op-ed concerning the West End stadium appeared in The Greenville News. They commented primarily on its tone rather than its premise.

After the meeting, Rep. Haskins and I talked for a moment in her office. We talked of the atmosphere that defined the current session. Regulations regarding private childcare centers became our next topic and then we closed out remembering some of the days when her husband Terry represented us on the House floor. We both miss him – though I cannot imagine how much more does she. One thing for sure, she draws from his memory every day.

The just less than one-hour House session was fun. It is fun to see the difference between the Senate and House sides. The House of Representatives is informal at best. The Senate is more staid and orderly. I don’t know which one I like best. I was surprised to notice that the majority of the House members paid attention when I was introduced to them. I half expected them to just keep on visiting with each other during that time.

By this time it was nearly one o’clock and I was getting hungry. As I came out of the gallery, Rep. Haskins grabbed me and we headed to the Senate chambers. I went up into the gallery (the stairs are VERY narrow – the average American must not have been obese back when the staircase was installed) and watched as the representative was allowed on the floor to speak with Senator Fair. I was embarrassed to see Senators Fair, Smith, Verdin and Anderson all approach the podium (though I got the impression that Sen. Ralph Anderson (D) didn’t know what he was being summoned for). They introduced me to the Senate and I made sure I gave a special point and wave to Sen. Anderson. I consider him a friend and he is one of those Democrats whose company I truly enjoy.

After all of that I escaped for some lunch. I ate at the Clarion Hotel. The Philly steak sandwich was actually quite good and the fries were hot. It was also a good chance to catch up in person with a friend who was making a job change from chief of staff for the Lt. Governor to campaign manager for David Beasley. It is going to be an interesting campaign for me! I have friends on both the Ravenel and Beasley teams.

After the late lunch I made my stop at the ABC (no – not that ABC store) and headed home.

There is one group that I forgot to mention. It is that great group between the two chambers. As soon as you hit the Capitol, you see them everywhere. They are either hired lobbyist or regular citizens volunteering their time for a particular cause. Like little kittens they stumble over each other waiting for the mama cat to come out of the dark wood paneled doors. As a session concludes they maneuver closer to the "MEMBERS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT" signs.

We sometimes look askance as these folk. However, they serve a valuable purpose. Sure, some of them are probably trying to win favor for some "big corporation" or special interest group. Many of them are watchdogs. They are the ones who have time (unlike the representatives) to investigate the myriad of regulations generated by various government departments and agencies. Without their diligence government could be ballooning at a much faster rate than it is.

Finally, I was encouraged to have at least one Representative stop me in the caucus meeting to let me know that he reads The Common Voice on a regular basis. All in all I am pretty pleased with our Greenville County delegation. I trust their influence on happenings of Gervais Street will continue.

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