Myrtle Beach Chamber has a Christmas wish list for lawmakers

In less than a month, the South Carolina General Assembly will kick off its 2013 session.

Grand Strand business leaders outlined the list of items they'd like to see lawmakers tackle next year at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce legislative luncheon Tuesday.

Reforming health care and reducing regulation are top priorities, but infrastructure was the word of the day at the luncheon, with one familiar item in particular is at the top of the infrastructure list.

Lawmakers say the long-awaited Interstate 73 project is on the verge of getting the permits it needs to begin construction. Chamber leaders say the project now faces a tougher challenge.

"The big question everybody has been asking for years, how are we going to pay for it? We've got to finally start scratching out a payment plan so that we can move that ball forward," said chamber president Brad Dean.

One state lawmaker told chamber members he's focused on putting together a package of state and federal funding for I-73.

"We met with DOT and the infrastructure bank just this past week, talking over possible scenarios. We've been working with local leaders as well as with federal leaders in Congress," said Rep. Alan Clemmons, (R) Myrtle Beach.

Health care reform is another issue on the chamber's wish list. With the election behind us, Dean says it's clear now that Obamacare, or the federal Affordable Care Act, will be the law of the land.

"Unfortunately, the affordable health care act really isn't that affordable. We're going to have to find ways to reform and tweak the health care legislation," Dean said.

Clemmons says he will oppose any effort to have South Carolina create its own state health insurance exchange, as called for in the federal law. He says he's already pre-filed a bill to that effect.

"South Carolina can take care of South Carolina's health care. We don't need the federal government to step in to help us get over a cold," Clemmons said. "We need to empower ourselves in this state."

Clemmons told chamber members Horry and Georgetown counties now have 17 representatives in both houses of the legislature, compared to just 12 not so many years ago.

He says that means the Grand Strand will have more clout to get things done, like funding for I-73 and dredging the Georgetown port.

The 2013 session of the General Assembly is scheduled to begin January 8th.

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