“Project LM”?

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I saw this article last night on The State’s Twitter feed and posted it on Facebook. Was a surprise to me and after getting calls and emails today, I’ve reached out to find out more.

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A public recreation site is planned for the Richland County side of Lake Murray after the county’s recent purchase of 4.2 acres in the Ballentine area.

The $2 million purchase was finalized June 30, according to county administrator Tony McDonald. More than a year was spent in closed-door talks and contract negotiations, with council members and county staff referring publicly to the project only by the code name “Project LM” even after council held a shell of a public hearing and approved setting aside money for the land purchase.

County leaders disclosed the purchase and the general idea for the land’s development only after The State newspaper pressed for details. Residents and lake-user groups have yet to weigh in.

It’s too early to say how the property, on Bonuck Road off Salem Church Road, could be developed, McDonald said, whether for beach, marina or other use

Read more here .

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Your thoughts on the “the flag”?

SC-Flag

I have heard from many of you in the past several days and wanted to be sure I had as much feedback as possible before we head towards a historic debate next week when the General Assembly returns to the State House.

In recent days I have been hearing from colleagues about possible AMENDMENTS planned for the debate. Honestly, I do not know if there will be any “straight up or down vote on removal” of the flag; but I would assume there would be. I am hearing from some about options to “replace” the flag with a different one and that’s why I’m reaching out to you for your input.

Be sure I know your thoughts…either by commenting below (be respectful, please), contacting me through the website , or emailing me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov

If I simplified options/amendments that may come up, I would ask you:

1) Remove flag from State House grounds?
2) Remove flag…but REPLACE with another? If so, WHICH flag?

Thank you for your time and thoughtful feedback.

Veto!

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The General Assembly returns Monday, July 6th, to deliberate “Budget Vetoes” that the Governor shared today in her press conference. Governor Haley was quoted as saying “What we saw was the rebirth of earmarks.” That reminded me of my push several years go to fix the practice of earmarks . I knew we would never eliminate them; but the reform we passed does require earmarks to be listed by sponsor and county. This allows members to see what members added to the budget that was not in the previous year’s budget or requested by state agencies through the normal process. Since that reform passed, members now KNOW about the earmarks and can decide whether or not to support them or not. As I mentioned years ago on Nathan’s News, the word “earmark” doesn’t have to mean “pork”…but that’s up to the individuals interpretation.

As I’ve done for the past several years , I wanted to share those vetoes with you and ask any constituents to contact me with your thoughts. Historically, the (vast) majority of vetoes get overridden by the Legislature. Through the years, though, we have seen more and more vetoes sustained.

For a “Veto Primer”, if the veto is overridden by the House, it goes to the Senate to be deliberated.
If the veto is sustained by the House, it doesn’t go to the Senate.
Should a veto be overridden by the House, and later sustained by the Senate…the veto ultimately is sustained.

Below are 87 vetoes this year. Governor Haley’s highest number of vetoes (but 2nd smallest by dollar amount of vetoes). Click on any link to see the Veto message. If you live in the Ballentine/Chapin/Dutch Fork/Irmo area, please contact me here or email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov to let me know your thoughts.

If you live in other parts of the state, please contact your Representative and Senator and pass along your opinions.

FY 2015-16 General Appropriations Act
FY 2015-16 Supplemental
FY 2015-16 Capital Reserve

(NOTE: in addition to these budget vetoes next week; the House and Senate will also debate the removal of the flag from the State House grounds. More on that later…)

Voting closer to home

precinct changes

The SC General Assembly adjourned sine die Thursday at 5pm; but will reconvene for at least one more week (probably more) during the summer. As I shared with Keven Cohen that afternoon; there really wasn’t much accomplished statewide (outside of Criminal Domestic Violence measures we passed). I’ll write more about “highs” and “lows” of the session in the coming weeks.

Locally though, I can report that many of you will get to vote closer to home than last time. Earlier this year, I shared that y’all let me know of changes you’d like to see regarding where you vote.

I don’t need to rehash how bad Richland County botched that election (during the “Penny Tax” referendum); but I did want you to know I had not forgotten. Even though I was able to make many changes two years ago to help reduce wait times in our area; I heard from the community that some voters wanted to be able to vote even closer to home. That led to me filing H.4142 in February. (Note: Special thanks to constituent Will Roberts, who is program manager for the mapping department of the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office.)

As information: Spring Hill precinct votes at Spring Hill High School. Dutch Fork #1 precint votes at Dutch ForK High School. Dutch Fork #3 precinct votes at River Springs Church.

In the coming months, many of you will receive new voter registration cards. Be sure to notice these and see where you will vote during the next location. Hopefully you’ll save a little gas…and time!

Richland County Council has a message for voters…

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Most anyone following SC politics and/or reading Nathan’sNews, will recall the push for “On the record voting” in the SC State House by then Representative Nikki Haley, myself and few others. Can’t believe it’s been more than seven years ago!

Lately, I’ve noticed that story locally here in our own county with Richland County Council.

I sure hope Seth Rose doesn’t have to go through everything I had to go through to get this done; but I sure am proud of him for taking up the fight.

From today’s The State, Cindi Ross Scoppe share’s…

Richland County Council has a message for voters, but I can’t print it

If you live in Richland County, there’s an 82 percent chance that you have County Council member who holds you in utter contempt. Believes it’s none of your business how he or she votes. On zoning requests in your neighborhood. On how much money to allocate to the Sheriff’s Department or the schools or anyone else. On how much money to squander on an overgrown pond that the council has visions (hallucinations?) of turning into a tourist mecca. On raising your taxes. On, well, anything.

That’s the nice way of putting it. The not-so-nice way of putting it is to say that 82 percent of the council members just voted to give themselves cover to lie to you about how they vote. On, well, anything.

Nine of the 11 council members just said to the public, well, something I’m not going to repeat. But it’s a two-word phrase that ends with “you.”

Earlier this month, a council committee torpedoed Seth Rose’s request to have roll-call voting at County Council meetings, instead of simply having voice votes where no one can even make out the voices. When his modest proposal arrived at the full council meeting later that day with a “vote no” recommendation, Mr. Rose made it even more modest, asking simply to have the staff look into ways council members’ votes could be identified in more cases, and report back to the council later.

Greg Pearce joined Mr. Rose in voting for that proposal. The rest of the council members voted against even looking for quick-and-easy ways to record some of their votes. That’s Bill Malinowski,Joyce Dickerson, Damon Jeter, Paul Livingston, Torrey Rush, Jim Manning, Julie-Ann Dixon, Kelvin Washington and Norman Jackson.

Banana republicanism

You’d think the council’s votes already would be recorded, as are significant votes on the Columbia City Council, and the Lexington County Council, and the Richland school boards that the County Council funds, and in the S.C. House, and Senate.

I mean, not requiring any recorded votes is banana-republic stuff even by South Carolina standards. If you don’t know how your representative votes, you can’t hold him accountable for how he votes. If you can’t hold him accountable for how he votes, he’s not actually your representative. He’s representing himself … and whoever it is whose interests interest him.

Unrecorded voice voting also can change the outcome of votes. If you watch a council meeting, you’ll notice that 1) nearly all actions are declared to have passed “unanimously” and 2) council members often seem not to be voting at all. If everyone had to raise their hands, the votes might still be unanimous. Or they might be split. Or we might discover that some motions actually failed, instead of passing unanimously.

Opponents say, when they’re willing to say anything, that there’s no need to require recorded votes because any member can request one — as Mr. Rose did on the vote to kill routine recorded voting. Mr. Rose says it would be disruptive to have to make that request on every vote and, besides, other council members glare at you when you do that.

There are at least two far better retorts: First, if we leave it up to Mr. Rose to demand all those recorded votes, there would be no one to hold him accountable when he’d just as soon no one know how he voted. Second, with this council, there’s no guarantee that asking for a recorded vote will result in a recorded vote: Last summer, there was what sounded like a very close voice vote to defer action on a controversial zoning request involving a mansion in St. Andrews. When then-Chairman Norman Jackson declared that the council had voted to defer, Mr. Rose asked for a revote. It’s a common request to make in any sort of meeting when a voice vote sounds close. But Mr. Jackson refused Councilman Rose’s request. Twice.

Frankly, that should have been enough by itself to cause the council to institute mandatory recorded voting. And depose the chairman. Because, even by South Carolina standards, that’s lawless lawmaking.

414 seconds per meeting

Mr. Rose told me that during the committee discussion of his proposal, opponents complained that recorded voting would take too long. And you know, I had a lot of sympathy when state senators said that Gov. Nikki Haley’s demand for roll-call votes on all bills would take too long: There are 46 senators, and the Senate can vote on scores of bills in a single day. And yet, the Senate manages to take roll-call votes on every bill — and a lot of other things.

There are 11 members of the Richland County Council. I looked through the minutes for their past two regular meetings: There were a total of 18 votes at each one. Eighteen. When Mr. Rose demanded and got his recorded vote on mandatory recorded votes, it added a total of 23 seconds to the meeting. Twenty-three seconds. Eighteen votes at 23 seconds each would add a grand total of 414 seconds — that’s just under seven minutes — to a meeting.

Mr. Rose told the committee that if time was a problem, the council could buy electronic voting equipment — which made sense for the 124-member S.C. House, and is why recorded voting isn’t really an issue there, but which makes no sense for an 11-member council.

At the council meeting, he fell back to asking that staff look into options — which could include mandatory voting only on, say, “action” items, or zoning items, or spending items, or whatever. At the council meeting — the one that’s streamed live and then posted on the county’s web site for all the world to see — not a single person put up an argument against Mr. Rose’s argument, or against his fall-back proposal. Because, well, what could anyone say in opposition?

The denial denial

There was that one comment from Mr. Malinowski, who chairs the committee that torpedoed the proposal and who interjected what he called a “point of clarification” just before the vote. “The committee did not deny this,” he announced. “The committee recommended keeping the current procedures in place.”

As a Richland County resident, I would find that horribly insulting … if I hadn’t been rolling on the floor laughing at the idea that anyone could possibly be so full of himself as to believe that voters are stupid enough to fall for such an absurdly ridiculous claim.

Of course the committee, followed by nine of the 11 council members, rejected mandatory recorded voting. Rejection: That’s what you call it when someone proposes to change the way things are done, and you vote to keep doing them the way you’ve been doing them.

Of course the committee, followed by nine of the 11 council members, rejected any notion of accountability. Accountability: That’s something voters can demand of their elected officials only if they have a way to find out what their elected officials are doing.

Of course the committee, followed by nine of the 11 council members, embraced the right to … well, to lie to voters. To tell them “oh, yes, I definitely voted for that” when “that” is something the voter likes, or “oh, no, I definitely voted against that” when “that” is something the voter dislikes.

Now, maybe no one on the council has ever lied to voters. Maybe none of them ever would. But that is what “the current procedures” allow. Invite. Facilitate.

And that is what nine of the 11 members of the Richland County Council just voted to continue doing.

If you feel like someone just spit in your face, you probably live in a district that elected one of those nine.

Ms. Scoppe can be reached at cscoppe@thestate.com or at (803) 771-8571. Follow her on Twitter @CindiScoppe.

House Roads Plan comes to the floor

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Earlier this year, there were two bills filed that had several cosponsors and it appeared one of these would be the legislation used to begin the debate on roads/infrastructure.

One bill (H.3579) was the “House Ad-Hoc Committee” bill which came from months long work of a bi-partisan committee formed by House Speaker Jay Lucas. The House Transportation Infrastructure & Management Ad-Hoc Committee was chaired by Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York) and, considering the parameters given (“fix our roads”), the committee presented a thorough bill.

Another bill (H.3580) had a very important component that was outside the parameters given to the committee above: tax relief – massive tax relief that was outlined earlier this year in Governor Haley’s State of the State address. This bill was filed by Rep. Tommy Stringer (R-Greenville).

While there were several discussions between sponsors of both bills as well as the Governor’s Office and staff to reach a compromise ; a third bill (H.3878) was filed that would provide much smaller tax relief in hopes of moving forward and being added to H.3579 as filed by the House Ad-Hoc Committee.

The last week of of March, the House Ways and Means full committee voted to combine the Ad-Hoc Committee bill related to roads and Rep. White’s bill related to income tax and those bills now move to the whole House as “H.3579″ Video of the committee can be viewed here.

Much has been written about the need to improve our state’s infrastructure system and every House member knows the importance of getting something passed sooner; rather than later. As I’ve shared at hundreds of meetings in my public service career, I believe you sent me to Columbia to “do something” rather than “do nothing”. Working with a total of 124 House members, 46 Senators, and 1 Governor means rarely will a bill ever be exactly like you or I would like to see it. With that in mind, I would like to hear your opinions on the House proposal. Please contact me directly through my website; email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov; or comment below. Through the floor debate and amendment process, this bill may experience changes; but I wanted to share information provided by the House Ways & Means Committee so that you know what the bill does:

1. Restructuring: There are two key components to restructuring in H. 3579. The first restructures the Department of Transportation and the second component restructures the State Infrastructure Bank.

A. Department of Transportation (DOT)

The Governor appoints Highway Commissioners (7 districts and 1 statewide) with a Joint Transportation Review Committee screening process approval. These commissioners serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Highway Commission will then appoint a secretary with the advice and consent of the Senate. Commissioners hold no “terms” and may only serve a combined 12 years on the commission (retroactive).

B. State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SIB)
The SIB Board expands from 7 to 13 members. It would consist of 7 district highway commissioners, 3 appointments from the Speaker of the House, and 3 appointments from the Senate President Pro Tempore. Of those appointments from legislative bodies, 1 of each must be an ex officio Representative and Senator. SIB members would have no terms and may only serve a combined 12 years (retroactive).

The SIB would lower its current $100 million project minimum to a $25 million project minimum and must follow project prioritization set forth by the South Carolina Department of Transportation in accordance with ACT 114. Only a Joint Resolution can override prioritization criteria requirements. However, only one project may be re-prioritized in a single Joint Resolution.

2. Transfer of Local Roads: Local governments that wish to take ownership of local roads (as identified by SCDOT) in their political subdivision may do so. In doing so, these local governments would be eligible for additional C-Funds. Should local governments opt in to take ownership of additional roads, they would receive transferred roads in three phases:

Phase 1: Local governments select 1/3 of identified roads in 2016.
Phase 2: Local governments select 1/3 of identified roads in 2018.
Phase 3: Local government select final 1/3 of identified roads in 2020.

As part of the phase-in process, the monies allocated to participating local governments would see an increased C-fund allocation of $1 million in year one followed by additional revenue increases in phase 2 and phase 3. Participants who opt in during phase 2 in 2018 would see a $500,000 annual increase in C-funds. Finally, participants who opt-in during the final phase would see a $250,000 annual increase in C-funds. C-funds would no longer come with a mandate requiring a percentage of funds be spent on state roads; this decision would rest with local decision makers.

3. Funding Components: There are two funding components.

A. Gas Tax
1. Per Gallon Tax – Currently it is 16.75 cents per gallon of motor fuel (gasoline and
diesel). This proposal would drop it to 10.75 cents per gallon of motor fuel.
2. Excise Tax – A wholesale indexed excise tax of 6% would be applied to a 6-month
average of the wholesale price of motor fuel.

B. Auto Sales Tax – Currently the auto sales tax is 5% of total vehicle costs capped at $300. This proposal would raise that cap to $500. Currently the auto sales tax is broken down with 20% going to education, 40% to the DOT, and 40% to the General fund. Under this proposal, the 20% capped at $300 for education remains, the 40% of the $300 designated to the General Fund moves to DOT and all funds over the $300 also go to DOT.

4. Control Component: This proposal includes two controls designed to prevent dramatic changes to gas prices from affecting the revenues dedicated to infrastructure.

A. Penny Control
The wholesale excise tax would not fluctuate more than one penny in a 6-month period.
B. Lifetime Control
The combined gas tax (comprised of the per gallon AND excise) cannot exceed 26.75 cents/gallon.

5. Revenue Generated:

A. Estimated New Revenue: Under this proposal revenues generated would be $428 million annually. Approximately $100 million from the auto sales tax cap increase, and shift of remaining General Funds to DOT.The remaining $328 million from the gas tax increase.
B. Gas Tax Revenue Sources
Out-of-State motorists currently comprise 1/3 of the revenues from the gas tax. Under this proposal that would equal $109 million.The Average driver (driving 11,000 miles/year in a car receiving 22 miles per gallon) would pay an additional $50 annually.The remainder is paid by “high usage vehicles” to include citizen commuters and transportation related industry.

6. Income Tax Reduction: Under this proposal an income tax reduction would be phased in over a two-year span beginning with fiscal year 2015-2016. The relief is realized by increasing the amount of exempt income in each existing tax bracket by $140 in the first phase, and another $140 the second, for a combined total of $280.

A. Cost to the General Fund
2015-2016: $1,337,967
2016-2017: $25,510,778
2017-2018: $21,910,558

B. Average Savings: The average South Carolina taxpayer with this income tax reduction would save $48 annually.

How to stop a $500,000,000 bond bill

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In a continuing sign that things are not the same in the SC House of Representatives as they once were, 22 GOP caucus members raised their hands saying they could not support borrowing $500,000,000 in this year’s state budget; no matter how worthy the projects were on the list.

Days later, there was no bond.

That doesn’t mean projects went without funding. It meant money was found in the budget to fund some of the projects or fund them at less amounts than the bond would have funded.

In the past, leadership would have rammed this bond down our throats and we’d have had maybe a 10 minute Q&A during lunch before voting for it. Not this session.

I want to thank Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) for allowing a much more open atmosphere for all members (Republican Caucus or entire House members) to have more say in what is happening in state government.

Whether it was the Governor’s bully-pulpit , more courage of members to speak out, a new Speaker, or simply listening to constituents…it worked.

As always I appreciate your feedback , especially many of you that shared your thoughts on my video on Facebook and Twitter before the bond debate began!

You can read more about this bond and it’s defeat by visiting Rep Tommy Stringer (R-Greenville) website.

Infrastructure Improvements coming to the area

Roads

The projects listed in the paragraphs below are scheduled for the DOT; they do not include projects that will be funded by the “penny” in Richland County . The two “penny projects” are: Widening of Broad River Road from Royal Tower up to I26 (Exit 97) with projected cost $29,000,000. Intersection improvement on Kennerly (Coogler/Steeple Ridge) with projected cost of $1,900,000.

DOT scheduled projects outside of the transportation penny projects above:

Sidewalk Improvement at Royal Tower Drive, S-1862 (Brickling Road)
Anticipated Project Cost: $42,100
Schedule: Letting is scheduled for May 2015

Intersection Improvement at US76 (Dutch Fork Road) and S-618 (Johnson Marina Road)
Anticipated Project Cost: $1,220,000
Schedule: Letting is scheduled for Fall 2016

Bridge Replacement over I26 2 miles East of Ballentine (Koon Road)
Anticipated Project Cost: $3,770,000
Schedule: RFP Opening is scheduled for Fall 2016

Bridge Replacement over I26 2 miles east of Ballentine (Shady Grove Road)
Anticipated Project Cost: $4,896,400
Schedule: RFP Opening is scheudled for Fall 2016

I26 Rehabilitation between mile marker 89 and mile mnarker 101 (I26 Eastbound)
Anticipated Project Cost: $505,900
Schedule RFP Opening is scheduled for Fall 2016

Making voting easier…feedback please

precinct changes

Like you, I’d much rather forget the election fiasco from 2012; but if you want to read about that mess again, feel free to click here to see several posts I shared with the community to keep you informed .

The same month the fiasco happened, I presented a plan that I thought would help fix the situation. I delivered on that plan; but am always looking for ways to be sure everyone who wants to vote, can vote.

To that extent, I have learned that when the precincts were redrawn , several people ended up having to drive PAST OTHER VOTING PLACES to get to their new place. How did I learn this? Because a constituent let me know. In fact, her street was divided and the first half of the street got to vote at the nearest polling place; but the last half of her street had to drive several miles away. Obviously, that needed to change.

To do so, I’ll have to get my House and Senate colleagues to approve the plan which, simply put, is outlined in the above photo. If you live in the highlighted areas, please let me know your thoughts. You can comment below or you can contact me through the website by clicking here .

To help you better understand the moves, please note that:
Spring Hill votes at Spring Hill High
Dutch Fork #1 votes at Dutch Fork High
Dutch Fork #3 votes at River Springs Church

Thank you to those that brought this to my attention. That is why I always encourage feedback and advice from the community. It’s the best way to help me serve you in Columbia!

The Weekly Rewind: Week of January 13th

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On Tuesday, January 13, 2015, the House of Representatives convened in Columbia for the commencement of the 121st South Carolina General Assembly.

As the House begins its legislative session, the body operates under the rules it adopted (H.3001) at last month’s organizational session. The membership adopted REVISIONS TO HOUSE RULES recommended by the bipartisan Ad Hoc Rules and Procedures Committee which the Speaker of the House appointed and charged with examining current practices and rules, holding public meetings, and seeking input from House Members and the public in order to identify ways the legislative body can be more transparent and accountable. These House Rules revisions include:

• New term limits imposed upon the offices of House Speaker and Speaker Pro Tempore so that those who are elected to the offices by the body may serve in these leadership positions for no more than five consecutive terms.

• Authority for the Speaker Pro Tempore to assume the duties of the Speaker should a conflict of interest arise involving the Speaker and the performance of his duties.

• A prohibition on leadership PACs that disallows the use of these political action committees by prohibiting a House Member from, directly or indirectly, establishing, financing, maintaining, or controlling a noncandidate committee or any other sort of arrangement that receives or makes campaign contributions. This prohibition does not apply to a candidate committee or a legislative caucus committee.

• Provisions that require the Speaker to consult with the majority and minority political party leaders when making appointments to the conference committees and free conference committees that are formed to address differences with the Senate over legislation and to appoint at least one member of the minority political party to these conference committees.

• An alteration in the procedure that allows a newly-introduced bill to bypass the committee process with the unanimous consent of the body. Under the revised rules, such unanimous consent requests for a bill to go without reference to a committee can only be made after the day’s roll call has been taken and the Speaker has determined that a quorum is present.

• A new requirement for all House committees and subcommittees to take roll call votes when deciding whether to give a favorable report on legislation so as to record the names of those voting and how they vote.

• A requirement for House Members to receive explanations of all the legislation they consider which provides that, whenever a bill or joint resolution is up for second reading approval before the House, the legislation’s sponsor, the chairman of the committee that has reported out the legislation, or some other House Member must explain the legislation for at least ten minutes or until all questions from House Members are addressed, whichever comes first.

• Mandatory waiting periods established at key phases of the state government budget-writing process that afford House Members more time to see what alterations might have been made since last they considered the budget legislation. The revised rules do not allow the General Appropriations Bill and other appropriations legislation that has been returned from the Senate with amendments to be considered until their number and title have been printed in the House Calendar and their contents, as amended, have been made available online to the public for at least forty eight hours. A Conference Committee or Free Conference Committee report on appropriations legislation may not considered until the report has been printed in the House Journal and made available online to the public for at least twenty four hours. The House may, however, waive this mandatory waiting period for budget conference reports with a two thirds vote of the membership present and voting, a quorum being present.

• A requirement for House committees to review legislation that has been substantially rewritten by Senate amendments. The revised rules require, rather than simply allow, the Speaker to send to a committee any bill, joint resolution, or concurrent resolution returned from the Senate with an amendment that has so materially changed the legislation’s contents as to make it no longer substantially germane to the legislation as it passed the House. The House may, however, waive this requirement with a two thirds vote of the membership present and voting, a quorum being present.

• The creation of the Legislative Oversight Committee formed to fulfill new legislative duties under the “South Carolina Restructuring Act of 2014″ to conduct periodic reviews and launch special investigations for the purpose of determining which state government programs continue to serve worthwhile purposes and which should be scaled back or eliminated altogether. Under the committee’s review cycle, each agency, department, and office of government will be scrutinized every seven years, and special investigations may be performed as needed.

• The creation of the Regulations and Administrative Procedures Committee which is established to receive all proposed state agency regulations submitted for legislative review under the Administrative Procedures Act rather than having these proposed regulations divided up among the various standing legislative committees for review according to their subject matter. This committee must be composed of at least two members from each of the House’s six standing legislative committees.

• A revised composition for the Operations and Management Committee whose members are elected by the House to advise the Speaker on matters relating to personnel, administration, and facilities management. The revisions provide for an eight-member committee that is divided equally between the majority and minority parties and chaired by one of the majority party members.

• New procedures for hiring House staff under which the Clerk’s Office receives and reviews all applications for employment vacancies and then submits a list of the most qualified applicants to the appropriate committee chairman or other supervisory authority for consideration. The supervisory authority’s selection is then submitted to the Speaker for final appointment as a member of the House staff. Provisions are also included for conducting House employee salary reviews.

• Revisions concerning the House of Representatives Legislative Ethics Committee, which is elected by the House membership to address allegations of unethical conduct. Provisions are included under which the committee addresses alleged violations of Ethics Act provisions and provisions governing the conduct of lobbyists and refers any matters, regardless of a finding of probable cause, that are violations of law not under its jurisdiction to the appropriate law enforcement or regulatory agency. New transparency requirements are included which provide that, unless otherwise indicated by rule or statute, all meetings, deliberations, actions, issuance of advisory opinions, debates, recommendations, and other activities of the committee are subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Provisions authorize the committee to obtain outside assistance when needed and to employ counsel who is not employed by any other House committee or office other than the House Clerk’s office.