If 2016 and 2017 taught us anything, it’s probably that we shouldn’t waste much time making predictions on a political landscape that’s ever-changing; the warranty on my crystal ball expired long ago. But for 2018, I’m whipping it back out to give you my best analysis on what you can expect in 2018 from business advocacy, and how you can get involved in shaping local, state, and federal policy.
Elections: 2018 is an election year for the entire U.S. House, South Carolina House, and statewide offices, including a governor’s race. This will be the first gubernatorial election where the Lieutenant Governor will run on the same ticket as the Governor, similar to the federal model of President and Vice President. Filing for these offices opens March 16th and closes March 30th.
For the 2018 election cycle, the Chamber will be rolling out a Gubernatorial Lunch Series, modeled after our 2015 Presidential Series where we hosted nine presidential candidates, allowing Chamber investors to get to know their candidates. We’ve got three candidates booked thus far for this spring, so be sure to mark your calendars for these dates and be on the lookout for registration openings:
- Governor Kevin Bryant (R) – January 29th
- James Smith (D) – February 12th
- Catherine Templeton (R) – March 19th
The Chamber also has a political action committee called BIGPAC (Business and Industry in Greenville PAC). BIGPAC provides financial support to members of the General Assembly and Statewide officers that work to pass pro-business legislation and squash anti-business legislation. BIGPAC will host two events this spring that will give you the opportunity to contribute to these candidates and help them get elected or re-elected.
Workforce Development: Finding a skilled and available workforce continues to be the top issue we hear about from Chamber investors. As a result, it’s the Chamber’s top initiative for 2018. To improve the Upstate’s workforce pipeline, we’ll be working on several bills to re-introduce those previously left-out of the labor market back to work. We’re working to expand expungement laws to low-level, non-violent drug offenses, so that a one-time mistake does not handicap an individual’s employment for life. We’re encouraging Congress to allow DACA recipients, more than 7,000 here in South Carolina, to be able to stay and contribute their skills and talents to our economy. We’re also working with members of the General Assembly to allow these students to obtain occupational licenses here in our state, instead of losing them to neighboring states. We’re engaging in efforts to provide affordable workforce housing, and adequate, fair funding for our schools, colleges, and universities.
The Chamber has also created a new Director of Talent and Workforce Solutions position, which will focus on cultivating and retaining home-grown talent in the Upstate, and will work with local stakeholders to better train and educate our Upstate Workforce. Meet Adrea Turner!
Lobbying: While the Chamber employs two full-time lobbyists that are your eyes and ears from City Hall to Capitol Hill, we’ll provide many opportunities in 2018 for you to develop relationships with your elected officials and advocate for the issues important to you. We have four issue-based committees that meet quarterly, and our Business Advocacy committee meets monthly to update you on what’s going on at the local, state, and federal levels of government.
You’ll also have opportunities in 2018 to visit the Statehouse and Capitol Hill with us. Our Annual Upstate Chamber Coalition Day at the Statehouse is on February 28th. This will allow you to see South Carolina’s legislative process up-close, lobby legislators, and wrap up the day with food and drinks at a legislative reception.
September 5th-7th will be our biennial National Issues Forum in Washington D.C. In 2016 we took more that forty Chamber investors to D.C. to meet with our federal delegation on the Hill, hear from policy experts on issues that affect business, and take in the culture and sights of our Capitol city. Mark your calendars and be on the lookout for more information on these opportunities.
A new year brings new goals, new hopes, and more opportunities to make the Upstate the best place work, live, and do business. Happy New Year!