New lawmaker has eye on old problems

Rep. Tom Young is taking aim at South Carolina’s tax exemptions — all $2.7 billion of them.

“There are some tax (exemptions) on the books that no longer have any validity in ’09,” said the Aiken Republican. “In 2009 the question is, do we really have to have all of these? I’m trying to bring fresh ways to look at old problems.”

Another old problem on the lawmaker’s agenda: High school dropout rates.

Last week Mr. Young introduced a bill that would withhold a driver’s license from minors who drop out of high school.

If the youth can show a hardship, such as the need to work at a job instead of attending school, an exception could be made under Mr. Young’s bill, which has attracted more than 40 co-sponsors.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people in the district that we need to do something to address the dropout rate,” he said.

Mr. Young, 37, says his attitude toward updating antiquated laws and old practices could have something to do with his youth.

He has also supported procedural reforms in the House, which increase the use of recorded votes on legislation that used to move ahead by anonymous voice voting.

But before Mr. Young contemplated tax reforms and government transparency, he was fighting for the seat he now holds.

Mr. Young survived a four-way Republican primary in June and prevailed with 52.5 percent of the vote in the resulting runoff.

He was relieved to face no opponent in the November general election before being sworn in as the representative for House District 81, formerly held by Skipper Perry, who retired.

It has been an unusually long, contentious road.

So does he feel added pressure now that he’s in office?

“I hadn’t even thought about it,” said Mr. Young, an attorney who is married with two children.

Indeed, Rep. Roland Smith says it’s all in the past.

“I think it’s pretty much forgotten for the most part,” said the Warrenville Republican, who leads the Aiken delegation.

“In Aiken County what they want … is someone to represent them in a credible, honorable way, and Tom Young fits that category.”

But Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said there could be some added public interest in Mr. Young, given his high-profile primary battle.

“Particularly the people in his district are going to be watching,” Mr. Massey said. “But I think he is going to impress a lot of people.”

Mr. Smith predicts Mr. Young will be a “leader in the Aiken delegation and a leader in the entire House.”

By Sarita Chourey
Augusta Chronicle

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