By now, everyone knows that the SC General Assembly returns to Columbia tomorrow for an “extended session”. The question on many people’s mind is WHAT exactly are we going to do during these few days.

One thing we won’t be doing is getting paid (well, some members may opt to take a per-diem but that is their decision to accept or decline. I am declining; but to be fair, I do live in town and get to come home every night while others have to stay in hotels.)

The obvious (and most immediate) action-item is to quickly remedy the situation regarding the extension of unemployment benefits to thousands in our state. Ultimately this should be an easy vote for the General Assembly. First, the stimulus debate has been fought – and lost. Second, we were only one vote short of passing a bill earlier this year that would have actually avoided the problem we now must address this week. Had it not been for “other reasons” (some members thumbing their nose at our Governor) we would not have even had to come back to do this. It would have been done already.

A larger question is: Do we take this time to actually reform the Employment Security Commission and the way our state handles unemployment issues?

I would argue “yes”. Without putting reforms in place NOW, the extension of these benefits with no other changes is just another stop-gap measure that will mean the issue will again have to be addressed at a later date. Last week I shared information from the Governor’s Unemployment Roundtable and, among several items that stood out, was the fact that several states continue to borrow money to pay for unemployment benefits/issues.

When will leaders have vision to look beyond election-cycles and do what is in the best interest of the “long haul” (and our state)?

Of course, some other items may come up too. Many would argue pursuing this matter, at this time, is not staying focused on our people and our state. Others would argue that taking action now could save valuable time next session – time when we should be focused on our people and our state instead of other matters.

Next session we will be hard-pressed to see action on other important items. With the budget situation we currently face, an election year for all 124 House Members , unemployment issues and a slew of other items left on our plate – focusing on hard work this week may be best for the “long haul”.

We shall see though.