– By Tiffani Ireland –
Only one of the three legislative delegation members from Edgefield County actually cast a vote on the historical decision to remove the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds, July 9, 2015. Representative Bill Clyburn was that one as Rep. Bill Hixon and Senator Shane Massey were not in attendance to cast their votes. Rep. Clyburn was one of the 94 votes in the House of Representatives in favor of the flag’s removal.
In speaking to The Advertiser regarding his absence from the debates and subsequent vote on the flag issue, Sen. Massey said that he was unable to attend due to a long-planned family vacation. In fact, Sen. Massey said that he intentionally scheduled the vacation during this time because it is a time the legislature is typically not in session. Additionally, Sen. Massey said that he did not get the notification of the legislature being called back to session until he was already on a plane with his family going to their destination. However, Sen. Massey did say that had he been present, he would have, as he had previously stated, voted in favor of the flag’s removal.
Rep. Hixon was also away on vacation at the time of the debates and vote. In an interview with The Advertiser, Rep. Hixon said that in January of this year he asked both the Speaker and Clerk of the House of Representatives when would be the best time for him to schedule a vacation. Both advised that he take some time near July 4th off as the legislature is not in session then. Rep. Hixon said that when he found out that the legislature was being recalled for the flag debate, he voiced his unhappiness over the timing of the debates to the Speaker of the House as many legislators take this week for vacations. Rep. Hixon stated that his vacation was a pre-paid event and not to have gone would have meant losing his vacation money. “Everybody I’ve explained it to understands,” Rep. Hixon said adding that his absence is considered an excused absence. Rep. Hixon went on to say that he had planned to return to the state capitol on Thursday to join the debate and cast a vote, however, the matter was decided before he made it back to Columbia.
In regards to the debate over the flag’s removal, Rep. Hixon said, “They had it out for the flag.” He maintained that had he been there for the vote, he would have voted for the amendments that would have allowed for a different flag to be flown. However, as Rep. Hixon pointed out, “Sometimes [one vote] does [make a difference], and sometimes it doesn’t.” Rep. Hixon said that this time, his one vote “would not have made a difference.”