About 60 state boards, commissions and committees are expected to get additional members because of South Carolina’s new seventh congressional district, giving Grand Strand- and Pee Dee-area residents more say in state government.
South Carolina gained the district, anchored in fast-growing Horry County in the northeastern part of the state, because of population growth. Its boundaries are being challenged in court by black lawmakers who say the new congressional district, drawn by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, is discriminatory.
But if the plan remains intact, it could be a boon for Grand Strand and Pee Dee voters, particularly when it comes to road improvements.
“Both symbolically and directly, it’s a testament to our high-growth area,” said state Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Horry. “More folks from our area will be eligible to serve on more boards and commissions.”
The 60 or so affected boards and commissions require one member from each congressional district. They oversee a wide swath of state government, including Health and Environment Control, Natural Resources, the state Library Board, the state Board of Medical Examiners and the Commission for the Blind, according to State House research.
Perhaps the biggest boon for Grand Strand and Pee Dee residents is one additional member on the state’s Department of Transportation board.
Representatives from the area have worked for decades to find money for a new $2.4 billion Interstate 73 highway that they say would bring tourism jobs and economic growth as well as less traffic congestion.
The project is competing for limited DOT dollars with existing roadways, bridges that need repairs and intersections in need of improvements.
“Money is scarce,” said Harrison Rearden, a transportation commissioner who represents part of the Pee Dee. “Competition is fierce.”
While lawmakers could vote against adding new members to any board or commission or only add them to some boards, there has been no talk of doing that, Rankin said.
Instead, legislative committees are tweaking state laws now so the entities will add new members to represent the 7th District.
Residents of other parts of the state will be affected, too.
Some boards will redo their composition, meaning a shift in representation for some residents. Others simply will add one additional seat for the new 7th District. Still other boards expect to swap out existing at-large board seats for the new 7th District seat.
“There are some concerns about adding members to some of these college boards that are already so large,” said state Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Horry. “So talks are under way to swap at-large seats for new 7th seats.”
How the new members for the boards and commissions will be selected also runs the gamut.
Gov. Nikki Haley will appoint some while the General Assembly will vote on others. In some cases, legislative delegations will appoint the new members.