Mike Ryhal’s new role as state representative for House District 56, which includes Carolina Forest, means he might have to give up his day job overseeing Rotelli’s Italian Restaurant in Conway.
Ryhal has made no decision, but said he is looking to move away from his restaurant because of the time commitment that comes with being a state representative.
Plus, he’s hoping to stick around for a while.
At the statehouse, Ryhal is listening to discussion on topics of local interest, such as a bill that would effectively kill Horry County’s trash regulation ordinance. He’s also staying in contact with those in Carolina Forest who are keeping him up-to-speed on what’s happening in his home community.
And he continues to learn the ropes of Columbia by meeting officials on both sides of an issue, and learning the history behind it.
That’s the approach Ryhal has taken toward a pair of bills dealing with Horry County’s controversial trash regulation ordinance, which stipulates all trash generated within the county has to be dumped in a local landfill, and prohibits out-of-county trash.
Ryhal attended the Jan. 18 Horry County Administration Committee meeting to hear about the trash regulation ordinance. At one point, Councilman Gary Loftus asked him why he wasn’t arguing the county’s case in Columbia.
Ryhal responded that he wanted to study the issue before making any type of decision. On Friday, he said he’s got a good understanding of what’s at stake.
“Everybody’s fighting right now to protect what they have,” he said.
Officials with the Horry County Solid Waste Authority fear losing the revenue stream generated through the trash ordinance will cut into funds used for its recycling programs and, ultimately, cost taxpayers more.
Ryhal now thinks the county will be OK based on funding and budgets over the last few years.
“They are competitively priced,” he said. Horry County’s tipping fees -- the fees paid by trash haulers -- are $29 a ton, among the lowest in the state.
He also has come to a decision on the two bills -- he’s going to support them. Ryhal said some changes were made to protect residents, such as giving the county the ability to say it doesn’t want out-of-county trash in its landfill.
Ryhal added the issue was narrowed down to whether someone can take construction materials and get rid of them a few miles across the county line and get a better deal. If so, that benefits the residents and builders.
“I think it’s the right thing to do. I support it,” Ryhal said about the proposed legislation.
Another hot topic is the state Infrastructure Bank, an independent road-funding agency that has committed billions of dollars for major highway projects in South Carolina, including the Carolina Bays Parkway in Horry County.
A number of bills have been introduced this year to get rid of the bank board and assign its duties to the state Department of Transportation.
Ryhal said the bank has mostly benefited Horry, Charleston and Greenville counties, but that’s because they’ve raised the money themselves and then gone to the bank asking for additional help.
The bills haven’t made it through the House yet, Ryhal added, and are still being discussed. He’s been talking to people on both sides to learn as much as he can before making a decision on his stance.
What about the area surrounding Carolina Forest? Ryhal said it’s going to be a challenge this year for a lot of local matters to see the light of day, because the caucus decided major issues need to be addressed first. One of those matters surrounds revamping the election law after the 2012 debacle in which hundreds of candidates across the state were tossed off the ballot because of improper filing procedures.
Ryhal was one of those, and had to get back on the ballot as a petition candidate.
“Somebody should not have to go through all the hoops and hurdles that we did,” he said.
But Ryhal said decisions on flow control, the Infrastructure Bank, education and others are beneficial to House District 56 residents and everyone else in Horry County.
He recognizes everyone would like to see Carolina Forest Boulevard widened tomorrow, and International Drive finished, but asks where the money would come from.
Ryhal is confident that new DOT 7th District Commissioner Mike Wooten, of Murrells Inlet, will be a benefit because he knows the roads and road systems.
“He’s going to push hard for Carolina Forest, for the 56th district road projects,” Ryhal said.
As for his future, Ryhal is going to continue his education on all topics while tackling the upcoming state budget.
“It’s challenging to be a new representative and he’s finding out what that is,” said Bo Ives, president of the Carolina Forest Civic Association.
Ives appreciates that Ryhal has stayed in touch with him during his time in Columbia. He also appreciated the representative coming to the Horry County Administration Committee meeting to hear talk about the trash regulation ordinance.
“I think that’s a huge step for a local representative,” Ives said.