As the legislative session came to a close last Thursday, state lawmakers slipped in a port restructuring bill and sent it to Governor Mark Sanford’s desk. Berkeley Senator Larry Grooms says the main objective of the bill-
“Stabilization is one of the first things it does. Clearly defines the duties of the executive director and the board. It also adds, as non-voting members to the board, the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Transportation. All that was done as a way of forcing communication that has not existed in prior years,” says Grooms.
Grooms says the international community is becoming doubtful about their future business at the Port of Charleston, when they consider future growth. He says the State Ports Authority has failed to expand the port and also failed in its communication with other state agencies, customers, and shippers in how the port should expand. For example, the port’s largest customer, Maersk, is still moving its business in 2010.
Grooms says the port restructuring bill will not only help keep the port on track with future business, but also help keep the flow of job creation.
“Our State Ports Authority has helped create 1 in 10 jobs in our state. 260,000 South Carolinians have a job because of our port activities. Our port creates more jobs than any other entity that we have. So, we have to nurture it, we have to play to our strengths, and our Port Authority is one of our greatest strengths, but we cannot help it fall in decline, we have to help build on that strength,” says Grooms.
Grooms says the port will fall if the it remains unstable. He says with the port restructuring bill, there is stability; however, he says he expects the governor to veto the measure.
“He has indicated that he has problems with the bill, he says it takes authority away from the governor’s office and places it in the General Assembly, and that’s simply not the case, it does not add anything to the General Assembly. What it does do is say that a 6-year term for a board member is a 6-year term, and every time we have an election cycle, that doesn’t give the next governor the ability to start over again,” says Grooms.
If the governor vetoes the measure, the General Assembly will consider the bill on June 16.