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The Edgefield County Republicans’ meeting last week was a success! Like the Democrats’ earlier meeting, the Republicans invited a guest speaker from the other party to address common issues. The speaker was Representative Bill Clyburn, who highlighted what the South Carolina Legislature faced this year and what it should see next year. The audience included S.C. Senator Shane Massey, so two of the three members of Edgefield County’s legislative delegation were present.
There were several questions from the audience about issues ranging from road and bridge repair to school district lines to health care to the economy. There was a discussion about how well or how poorly Edgefield County has been attracting new jobs, compared with other counties. There was a follow-on discussion about the role of agriculture in our county, and the paradox of having unemployed local residents while needing to hire agricultural workers from Latin America. I think that in itself may be a subject worthy of a community forum, a forum to which we (Democrats and Republicans together) should invite not only agribusiness owners but also citizens across our entire demographic base. That means that our forum should specifically include local Hispanic voters, who have notably been absent from both the Democratic and Republican forums so far. To thrive as a political community, to glean everybody’s good ideas, we need to be sure that all of our political gatherings are as inclusive as possible. Community outreach is often needed not only to let people know that “you are welcome if you want to come” but, more importantly, “we need you to come in order for all of us to succeed.” A rising tide lifts all boats.
One phrase that Rep. Clyburn used in responding to “what can we do about this?” questions on several subjects was “Contact your legislative delegation.” Since two-thirds of the delegation was present at the meeting, I inferred that he meant outside of the meeting itself. So here is this week’s idea: can our two political parties in Edgefield County come up with a test case: something both agree should be tackled by our legislative delegation, but that they are not already tackling?
My recommendation (and there are certainly others) is raising the minimum wage. As was stated in this column a few weeks back, only about 5% of our workers statewide earn the legal minimum wage, but that wage level has been stuck right where it is for five years now. Adjusted for inflation, their pay is lower than it was 50 years ago. The argument has been made that we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage when the economy is down – but now, the economy is recovering. Is this the first issue that our two Edgefield County parties should bring, working together, to our legislative delegation?
Maybe not, maybe the issue should be indexing gasoline taxes to their historic average and actually fixing our roads and bridges before rather than after they fall in. But the challenge to both parties is this. Let’s come up with one among the many issues we realized we agree on, and let’s see whether, working together, we can get some things done. My idea is raising the minimum wage to its level of 50 years ago. What’s your idea?