As I mentioned earlier this year, reform wasn’t built in a day . Manuevering legislation through the political process takes time and hard work. Yesterday, after more than a year since I pre-filed the bill, my colleagues finally had a chance to vote on more transparency in our political process. This time dealing with campaign finances .
The vote was 108-1 and the bill now heads to the Senate after a customary third-reading this morning.
Many in our state probably do not know (or might not really care) that a few years ago, House and Senate members (and candidates) were required to file campaign reports on-line for the first time. In the past, paper reports were filed and could only be reviewed by someone coming to Columbia or requesting/paying for the copies. This transition to on-line disclosures was a giant step for our state’s political process and actually earned us high ranks across the country (something SC usually is not known for in most areas). Before House and Senate members filed on-line, it was only statewide office holders and, of course, national candiates.
This bill now requires all elected officials and candidates for those office (mayors, county council, school boards, etc are now included) to file on-line so that their reports can be easily viewed by voters too. In addition to this, an amendment put lobbyists and lobbyists principals on-line as well.
Another improvement to our current systems is that the bill addresses the so-called “black out” period that exists between the time we file our last pre-election report and the day voters go to the polls.
Simply put, I wanted to change this and match our openess with those on the national level who must report contributions during that time within 48 hours after receipt .
When this bill becomes law (by the way, call your Senator and ask him to support and get to the floor for debate so that it can pass before we adjourn in a few months), voters will have more immediate access to candidates reports and contributions than ever before.
During the debate, a few drifted from my focus on transparency to instead targeting one individual who has often been mentioned in South Carolina elections over the past few years.
Arguments can be made regarding contributors circumventing the intent of the law; however, my colleagues ultimately decided against restricting who can and who cannot contribute and instead voted to present a straight-forward, common-sense, reform bill to the Senate for their immediate consideration.
H.3066 shows that, by working together, a group can do something positive to help restore confidence in public servants and the political process. My bill did not come out of the House Judiciary committee as I originally filed it; and that was ok. Instead of a “my way or highway” approach, I am always willing to let others participate in crafting the final bill. The committee made changes and we had a few additional changes from the floor. Even with an approximate hour of debate on the floor, Republicans and Democrats ultimately worked together to craft a bill that passed our house almost unamiously and accomplished what I had intended many months earlier.