Search Results for: earmark reform

So much for Earmark Reform…

Are you kidding me? A colleague sent me this from the The Post and Courier. This really makes me wonder about the vetoes we are taking up tomorrow.

Governor Sanford found what he thought were 69 items we could do without this year. Just think what he DIDN’T find!

I’ve often heard that “people in the know” have ways to hide things that can never be found but with this year being the “Year of Disclosure” (Earmark Reform, Campaign Finance Reports online), I thought we had stopped all this.

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Schools act as money funnels

By Diane Knich
The Post and Courier
Sunday, June 1, 2008

South Carolina legislators are using some of the state’s public universities as funnels, quietly channeling nearly $2 million in tax dollars to their favorite charities during the past three years, a Post and Courier investigation found.

Some legislators sent this money to nonprofit groups with which they have direct ties. For instance, state Rep. David Mack, D-North Charleston, has sent $700,000 through South Carolina State University to a Columbia-based nonprofit organization where he works and receives money.

But it was far from an isolated case. The newspaper’s analysis found that legislators funneled money through most of the state’s major public institutions of higher learning.

The practice raises questions about conflicts of interest and how legislators distribute public money.

“It looks like a way to camouflage money to do something they can’t do or don’t want to do directly, something that might be politically embarrassing,” said John Crangle, director of the government watchdog group Common Cause South Carolina.

Here’s how it works: State legislators take money from the state budget and tuck it into universities’ state appropriations — sometimes without the schools’ prior knowledge. The universities then hand over that money to the charities.

The Post and Courier requested information, under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, from seven of the state’s largest public universities about money legislators had them pass through their budgets to charity groups over the past five years. Legislators went through all of the schools except the College of Charleston and The Citadel to funnel tax dollars.

State politicians for years have used budget mechanisms to send tax dollars to pet projects. But the amounts tend to be higher for money funneled through universities.

In Mack’s case, he sent $300,000 to S.C. State in the 2006-07 school year and asked the university to send the money to a Columbia-based nonprofit organization called the Palmetto Center for Advocacy. The center conducts health education programs statewide, especially obesity prevention programs.

Mack sent the group another $400,000 through S.C. State in the 2007-08 school year.

Anastasia Shaw, deputy director for Palmetto Center for Advocacy, said the $700,000 from the state is the only money the group has brought in so far. But, she said, the center is “looking to diversify funding.”

According to the group’s Web site, Mack is employed as its “outreach director.” In a telephone interview, Mack said he now does consulting work for the group and previously was the organization’s interim director. He also said he is paid for all of his work with the center but declined to say how much.

By law, nonprofits must allow the public to view tax forms, which include salaries of directors. But the center is relatively new, so its tax records are not yet publicly available.

When asked why he chose to send the money through the university instead of going through the state’s competitive grants program, Mack said, “We just chose that way.” [Read more…]

House passes Earmark Reform rule change

Office of the Speaker

SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Greg Foster
January 23, 2008 (803) 734-3125
fosterg@scstatehouse.net

House Passes Earmark Reform Rule

Rule change, first major accomplishment in ending hidden earmark spending

(Columbia, SC) – Today, House Speaker Bobby Harrell and the House Republican Caucus approved a change to House Rules that will end the practice of hidden earmark spending in our state’s budget.

Speaker Harrell called the plan, “A victory for the taxpayers.” Harrell said, “Lawmakers must be held accountable for how the taxpayer’s money is spent. If lawmakers are not willing to put their name by an item they are requesting, it is probably something that should not be done in the first place.”

Nathan Ballentine “This is a major step in bringing more transparency to the way we spend the taxpayer’s money. This move should go a long way in helping to reduce wasteful spending in our state’s budget.”

The House Rule will require legislators to attach their name and a description of the spending project to any non-agency request included for consideration in our state’s budget. This separate document will be made available to the public throughout the budget process.

House Rules Committee Chairman Brian White said, “This rule change sheds light on our budget process and shows the House’s commitment to ending this practice of hidden spending in our state’s budget.”

Under this rule, anonymous spending earmarks from the Senate will take a two-thirds vote from the House to be considered in the final state budget.

Legislation containing the same language as the rule change has also been introduced and is supported by the House Republican Caucus for passage by both bodies of the legislature.

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H4356 – EARMARK REFORM

Today was the last day for House Members to pre-file legislation before we return in January for the last year of the 117th session of the South Carolina General Assembly.

While I have other bills I plan to introduce this year, today I wanted to file legislation that best illustrates what we you have told me we need to fix in government – a lack of transparency and questionable spending procedures.

H.4356 can help accomplish this for our state. When you elected me three years ago, you asked me to lookout for your taxdollars and also work to bring common-sense back to government. This bill does both. This bill is about people, not politics.

As you’re aware, U.S. Senator Jim Demint is actively pushing similar reform in Washington and it applies here locally as well.

I’m proud of the handful of colleagues who already cosponsored the legislation before we even begin our 2008 session. We’ve been working on this before summer and are hopeful for passage this year.

In addition to this earmark reform bill, House Speaker Bobby Harrell and I introduced a similar bill. Representative Michael Thompson (R – Anderson) has also filed similar bills as well.

(To see all House bills pre-filed today, click here)

As always, any input or advice is appreciated. For those that visit this site from around the state, I encourage you to ask your House Member to cosponsor this effort!

Note: You can also ask your Senator to cosponsor the companion bill S.896, pre-filed today by newly-elected Senator Shane Massey (R – Aiken).

General Bill
Sponsors: Reps. Ballentine, Harrell, Mulvaney, E.H. Pitts, Haley, Bedingfield, Lowe, Duncan, Crawford, Shoopman and Talley
Document Path: l:\council\bills\bbm\10238htc08.doc

Prefiled in the House on December 12, 2007
Currently residing in the House Committee on Ways and Means

Summary: Not yet available

HISTORY OF LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS

Date Body Action Description with journal page number
12/12/2007 House Prefiled
12/12/2007 House Referred to Committee on Ways and Means

A BILL

TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 2-7-67 ENACTING THE “APPROPRIATIONS BILL EARMARK DISCLOSURE ACT” SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION SURROUNDING EARMARKS REQUESTED BY MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR INCLUSION IN AN APPROPRIATIONS BILL, TO PROVIDE DEFINITIONS APPLICABLE FOR THIS DISCLOSURE, AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE ENFORCEMENT OF THESE DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Chapter 7, Title 2 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

“Section 2-7-67. (A) This section may be cited as the ‘Appropriations Bill Earmark Disclosure Act’.
(B) For purposes of this section:
(1) ‘Appropriations bill’ means the annual general appropriations bill, a supplemental appropriations bill, the joint resolution appropriating revenues of the capital reserve fund, a bill appropriating contingency reserve fund revenues, or any other bill appropriating state revenues while these bills are under consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee or Senate Finance Committee, or any subcommittee thereof, and any free conference committee on an appropriations bill. For purposes of this definition, a bill includes a joint resolution.
(2) ‘Earmark’ means:
(a) an appropriation for a specific program or project requested by a member of the General Assembly not originating in a written agency budget request;
(b) language in an appropriations bill requested by a member of the General Assembly directing or steering the expenditure of funds appropriated to an agency for a purpose or to a county or municipality not included in the agency’s budget request.
(C)(1) A member of the General Assembly requesting an earmark in an appropriations bill shall make the request in writing on a form designed jointly by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Minimally, the form must include the member’s name, the specifics of the earmark request, including the county or municipality to which the earmark is steered if not statewide, the purpose to be accomplished by the earmark request, and such other information as the form may require. The form must be filed with the clerk of the House Ways and Means Committee or Senate Finance Committee, as appropriate. All earmark requests must be date/time stamped at the time of filing. The committee shall maintain for public inspection during normal business hours a register containing a copy of each earmark request filed in order of filing and a copy of the earmark request must be published on the General Assembly’s website within three business days of filing. In the case of an earmark request while an appropriations bill is under consideration by a committee of free conference, the form must be filed with the designee of the chairman of the committee of free conference and this filing applies, mutatis mutandis, in the manner of filing with a committee clerk for purposes of consideration of the earmark request in a committee of free conference. An earmark may not be considered in the House Ways and Means Committee or Senate Finance Committee or any subcommittee thereof or in a free conference committee for inclusion in an appropriations bill before the filing of the earmark request form required pursuant to this subsection.
(2) The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, the chairman of a subcommittee of those committees, and the chairman of a committee of free conference, while these committees are considering an appropriations bill, shall enforce the requirements of this section.”

SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor and applies for appropriations made for fiscal years beginning after June 30, 2008.

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Reform wasn’t built in a day

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I have ZERO patience.

It’s one of my faults and I’m not really sure if I’m any better after five years in public service than I was before I began. What I do know is that change does indeed take time…persistence, teamwork and backbone.

With recent announcements in our state and after listening to the Governor’s State of the State address last night, I believe this 2010 legislative session could see several more reforms to the customary “business as usual” way of SC politics.

How did we get to this point? I can only speak of what I’ve seen and worked toward in my time in office.

Nathan’s News readers know that in October 2008, I filed a Campaign Finance Disclosure Reform Bill that finally appears on the verge of passing the full House Judiciary Committee. That bill was just one of several bills designed to provide more transparency and restore confidence in the political system here in South Carolina.

That bill hasn’t seen near the resistance of an earlier reform bill that quite simply “shook the State House” months earlier. You may recall after a “voice vote” for a Legislative Cost-of-Living adjustment passed, Representative Nikki Haley (R-Lexington) saw a serious problem that had to be fixed.

Two summers ago, I joined her in an important fight to really change business in Columbia through a common-sense approach of more accountability with On-The-Record Voting . Taking personal losses , we worked to improve the abysmal number of recorded votes through a house rule change and are hopeful this year the bill can finally become law. To my surprise, when the House Republican Caucus revealed our agenda, this item was listed as finished business from last year (last page, last item) .

While these are two of the most recent reforms to see the light of day, they weren’t the first and hopefully will not be the last.

Today, I read that the House Democratic Caucus included these ideas in their 2010 Agenda and we (reformers) welcome any and all support to continue a movement that began years ago when a few reformers decided to make a difference.

InDecember 2007, I shared with our caucus the need to clean up “hidden earmarks” that were bloating our state budgets and oftentimes no one but a handful of individuals knew what money was going where and for what. Unlike On-The-Record Voting and Campaign Finance Disclosure Reform bills, earmark reform passed quickly in session with no resistance.

The number of like-minded reformers has slowly increased and has enabled legislation to get to this point. There is now a larger nucleus than ever in Columbia trying to change years of “status quo”. While some are new to the cause, others have been here for awhile. Some lone-wolfs before I was even elected.

This year’s session has quickly seen several more reform bills filed that will help shed more light on SC politics and change the “status quo” that has had a grip for too long in Columbia. Once these changes become law, it will allow us to begin to put politics aside and put the people of South Carolina first.

A few bills I’d like to bring to your attention are listed below. If you find one (or more) of interest to you, please ask your representative to co-sponsor the bill and also please contact the committee that will debate the bill to see those members position. Bills are listed from most recently filed to those that were filed last year but not yet passed.

H.4402 I filed this today to change how we can currently elect one of our sitting members to the Employment Security Commission. The bill would mirror the restriction in place for the Public Service Commission and place a “four year window” after service in the General Assembly before you could be appointed. If you don’t know it already, these spots are $100,000+ salary and are considered the “plum retirement spot” for General Assembly members (those that don’t aspire to be judges when they retire).

H.4403 I filed this today to ban any Board or Commission member that we appoint/elect from giving campaign contributions to members. Also it will ban candidates from contributions to members within one year of running for one of those coveted spots.

H.4386 Term Limits for University/College Board of Trustees
Thompson, H.B. Brown and Merrill

H.4385 Revision to structure of USC Board of Trustees
Thompson, Simrill, Spires, Frye, Bingham, Merrill, G.M. Smith, Kirsh and Hiott

H.4348 Transparency at Committee/Subcommittee levels: minutes, votes,etc.
Gunn, Ballentine, Haley, Hart, Millwood, Parker, Allison and T.R. Young

H.4275 Term Limits for House/Senate
Haley and Wylie
(Similar bill H.3877 Scott, E.H. Pitts, Huggins, Toole, Crawford, Daning, Hardwick, Hearn and Lowe)
(Similar bill H.3213 Ballentine, Haley and E.H. Pitts)

H.4271 Spending Accountability in Government Act: bans members/members families from state contracts and requires personal income disclosure
Haley and Gunn

H.4251 Quicker hearings for bills with support of 60 cosponsors
Wylie, Gunn, Ballentine and T.R. Young

H.4247 Revis Education Finance Act (funding)
Merrill and Wylie

H.4232 Taxpayer Protection Act: places spending caps on budget
Haley and T.R. Young

H.4227 Abolish Commission on Higher Education
Merrill

H.4182 Term Limit Lt. Governor
Scott, Kirsh, G.M. Smith, Ballentine and T.R. Young

H.4153 Lobbyist filing, Ethics fines, etc
T.R. Young

H.4119 Reform to the Judicial Selection Merit Commission
Gunn, Stringer, Ballentine and Millwood

H.4108 Allow Public Referrendum
Gunn and Ballentine

H.3833 Public Recall of Elected Officials
H.B. Brown, Bowen, Huggins, Brantley, Mitchell, Parker, Kennedy, King, Govan, Spires, Ballentine, Williams, Bedingfield, McEachern, J.E. Smith, Rutherford, J.M. Neal, Hamilton, Toole, R.L. Brown, Alexander, Allen, Allison, Anderson, Anthony, Bales, Barfield, Battle, Bowers,
Brady, Branham, G.A. Brown, Clyburn, Cobb-Hunter, Crawford, Daning, Dillard, Duncan, Edge, Forrester, Frye, Funderburk, Gilliard, Gullick, Gunn, Hardwick, Hart, Harvin, Hayes, Hiott, Hodges, Hosey, Hutto, Jennings, Kelly, Kirsh, Knight, Limehouse, Littlejohn, Long, Lowe, Mack, McLeod, Miller, D.C. Moss, Nanney, Neilson, Ott, Parks, Pinson, M.A. Pitts, Scott, Sellers, D.C. Smith, J.R. Smith, Sottile, Stringer, Thompson, Vick, Weeks, Whitmire, Willis, Wylie, A.D. Young and T.R. Young

H.3640 SC Fiscal Accountability Act: zero-based budgeting
Haley, Merrill, D.C. Smith, Bingham, Stringer, Erickson, G.M. Smith, Duncan, Thompson, Millwood, Toole, Frye, Ballentine, Edge, Hamilton, Herbkersman, E.H. Pitts, M.A. Pitts, Wylie, T.R. Young and Cole

H.3558 Increase General Reserve Fund
Thompson and Simrill

H.3533
Improved Budgeting (based off lesser of last year’s revenue or percentage of BEA estimate)
Thompson, J.E. Smith, Ballentine, Haley, E.H. Pitts and Simrill

H.3434 Establish Office of Inspector General
Funderburk, J.E. Smith, McLeod, Anderson, Ballentine, G.A. Brown, Clyburn, Jefferson, Kirsh, Williams, Gunn, Horne, G.R. Smith, Sottile, Long, King, Daning, Cole, Hutto, Hearn, Forrester, Allison, Parker,Gilliard, T.R. Young, Millwood, Stringer, Hamilton, Wylie, Scott, Willis, H.B. Brown, Crawford, Erickson, Herbkersman, Nanney, Dillard, Bannister and
McEachern

H.3379 Governor/Lt.Governor on same ticket
Scott, Ballentine, Chalk, Erickson, Hamilton,Harrell, Long, Nanney, Parker, G.R. Smith, Sottile, Willis and T.R. Young

H.3346 Term Limits Speaker and Speaker ProTempore of House
Merrill

H.3280 Allows state to vote on whether to have Superintendent of Education appointed position
T.R. Young, Allison, Parker, D.C. Smith, G.R. Smith, J.R. Smith, Stewart, Millwood, Horne, Funderburk, Wylie, Bedingfield, Hart,Harrell, A.D. Young, Viers, Gunn and Erickson
(Similar bills H. 3279, 3278, H.3277, H.3276, H.3275….other current constitutional officers)

H.3239 Term Limits House Committee Chairmen
Merrill

H.3057 Ban Taxpayer Funded Lobbyists
By Merrill, Wylie, G.M. Smith, Bingham, Umphlett, Hamilton, Toole and Millwood

To contact your Representative and ask where he/she stands on any of these bills (or others of interest to you), visit www.scstatehouse.net and click under “House Bios”.

Irmo Veterans Park Funding

I first learned of the $30,000 earmark for Irmo Veterans Park weeks after the House had already passed our appropriations bill for the upcoming state budget. It was not in our House budget because we had not been privy to any conversations or requests. Soon after, I read in The State that Governor Haley had included this earmark in her list of “Pork Barrel Spending” and I immediately knew this would put me and Representative Huggins in a difficult spot.

Ever since my first year in office, I have been recognized as a Taxpayer Hero and Friend of the Taxpayer by various groups. The people of Irmo, Chapin and Dutch Fork know my good stewardship of your tax dollars in Columbia and also know that I sustain more vetoes than I override. Friends and neighbors remember that I led the push for Earmark Reform years ago when one of my bills and my discussions with House Leadership resulted in a House rule change that provided transparency (long before roll-call voting and long before my campaign finance reform bill). This push ultimately required House members’ earmarked requests to be listed by dollar amounts, officials’ names, project information and location and the list be placed on our desks before we began voting on the budget.

How does an elected official not support his own community? How does an elected official not support our veterans? Those were questions I wrestled with and knew I would hear from others. I decided to seek guidance from family and constituents and to talk to town leaders.

My father was a combat veteran from Vietnam in the US Navy. Serving from January 1968 to March 1969 in the Mekong Delta region of South Vietnam, my dad had six men on his small Assault Support Patrol Boat that supported the 9th Infantry Division on their operations by transporting them up the small canals to their operation sites. He saw friends pay the ultimate sacrifice for our great country. He knows first -hand about our veterans; because he is one.

Both my grandfathers were veterans, too. My paternal grandfather served in the US Army during World War II while my maternal grandfather served in the US Navy on board the USS Alcyone from 1942 to 1945.

I asked my dad his thoughts and those were simple and clear. A vote to sustain this veto wasn’t about my support of the community or our veterans. This vote was about one concept: do we spend state tax dollars on local projects in elected officials’ communities? A few years ago, there a process was in place to do just that and it was called the Competitive Grants Program. Even after we finally closed that program, there is still a practice used by many politicians who request earmarks directly in the budget.

Are all earmarks bad? Of course not. When state funds are used to benefit our state (even if those funds are directed to only one area or the state), earmarks can be beneficial. It’s when earmarks are used to only benefit one community (and therefore not benefiting our state as a whole) that earmarks get their bad name.

My father-in-law is also a US Marine and I spent time hearing from him last week as well. He agreed with what my dad and I both believed; but I wanted to go outside the family to other veterans to see their thoughts too.

I traded emails with Chapin American Legion Post 193 Commander William Chick. He too agreed that this veto should be sustained and also asked that I sustain many more of the Governor’s vetoes.

This information – directly from veterans and men I respect – supported my belief that I knew how I needed to vote; but I wanted to talk to town leaders, too. I spoke with Mayor Hardy King and also even had breakfast with my deskmate (Rep. Chip Huggins) and Irmo Town attorney, Jake Moore, who had been involved in this earmark request earlier in the year when he wrote a letter to our Senator, the new Pro Tempore of the Senate, John Courson.

Let me publicly say this, when finished, the park will be a great asset for Irmo and our neighbors. I saw the park last week when I went to locate it on Palmetto Wood Parkway. I also want to publicly thank Jake Moore for his dedication to this park, the town, and for his years of service on the Arbor Day Committee. Mr. Moore is helping improve our community with his time and money. His heart is in the right place.

Mr. Moore, Rep. Huggins and I discussed ways we could help this park and Irmo to more appropriately fund any local improvements for our community and neighbors. This $30,000 earmark was not the way to help the park or our veterans. While on merits the Irmo Veterans Park is more worthy than to be called a “pork barrel project”, supporting this earmark would lead to our other House colleagues expecting our support for their local earmarks which would only benefit their constituents by using other state tax dollars.

During our meeting, Mr. Moore shared the potential plans and needs he sees for Irmo and the Midlands Region’s future. Representative Huggins and I shared we could support those planes through local funding and we look forward to working with local governments (Lexington County, Richland County, City of Columbia, Town of Irmo, and Town of Chapin) as well as the SC Parks, Recreation and Tourism for appropriate financial support through those entities.

The Irmo Veterans Park is well on its way to completion after receiving a grant of $50,000 from the state. The park will also benefit from private donations and park-bench memorials and honorariums which Mr. Moore and others are working to raise. Representative Huggins and I can certainly join others in the community by making a financial investment to this worthy effort.

Working together, we will be able to continue the fight to keep state dollars funding state needs as well as continue to support the Irmo community and our veterans by doing the right thing; even when it’s not the easy thing to do.

Political Landscape of 21st century

I think its pretty obvious that I continue to want more transparency in state government (On-The-Record Voting, Campaign Finance Reform, Earmark Reform, etc) but I’m just wondering when more elected officials will realize that voters want it too.

In this day and age (when you can sit on the beach with a mobile phone or wireless laptop and email someone on the other side of the world in literally seconds), constituents demand and deserve to know “what’s going on?”

I think we’ll ultimately fix the flawed rules change the House just passed but let’s talk about how elected officials and voters can stay in touch on a more frequent basis.

I’ve only been an elected official for four years now but when I started my campaign, I knew I needed a website. At the time, the site was basically like an Atari 2600 in the world of websites. Nonetheless, it helped me get my message to the voters, allowed the voters a way to contact me 24 hours a day, and well, let’s be honest – it was inexpensive. ( You know how much a tightwad I am. Plus, the constituent surveys, issue pieces, constituent service-night invitations, etc. all cost lots of money AND I’m not even mentioning the costs to campaign when elections are upon us).

About two years ago, Wes Donehue approached me about improving my site. I’m glad I decided to finally upgrade and basically turned in my Atari 2600 for let’s say an Xbox of a site. It allowed me an even better way to communicate with my constituents through regular blog postings, videos AND enhanced ways for my constituents here in the District (and our state) to contact me for help, suggestions, ideas and support.

Wes had pushed me to “Twitter” over a year ago but, like most non-tech-savvy folks, I said (a) I don’t know how and (b) I asked WHY should I? I finally found out why. Not only do I get to know my constituents on a more personal level, they get to know me better as well. Inside and outside politics.

Then it was Facebook. Again, I thought it a little “stalkeresque” and definitely “Big Brother” but….it is also another way of staying in touch with voters.

If this past election cycle taught us anything it’s that there are thousands of voters that would not be “dialed-in” to politics without the web. Heck, I’m even reading reports that newspapers and other main-stream-media outlets are taking bit hits because readership/viewership is down while people continue to stay informed through other channels.

All this said, nothing trumps the best way of keeping voters informed, the face-to-face conversations at church, grocery store, ballfields, HomeOwnersAssociation meetings, etc.

In 2008 (with 2009 around the corner), if an elected official isn’t allowing his/her constituents “ultimate transparency”, they need to reconsider. Yes, it’s difficult to keep it all going – updating, communicating…while also working your paying job and family life but…if an elected official truly wants to represent you, he/she needs to stay in touch constantly – not just at election time!

Here are the other House Members that apparently believe in transparency too.

REPUBLICANS

Dan Hamilton: Blog. Twitter, Facebook.

Jeff Duncan: Blog. Facebook. Co-sponsor of transparency bill in House.

Gary Simrill: Facebook. Co-sponsor of transparency bill in House.

Ted Pitts: Facebook. Co-sponsor of transparency bill in House.

Eric Bedingfield: Twitter, Facebook.

Tommy Stringer: Facebook. Co-sponsor of transparency bill in House.

Joey Millwood: Twiter, Facebook. Co-sponsor of transparency bill in House.

Wendy Nanney: Facebook. Co-sponsor of transparency bill in House.

DEMOCRATS

James Smith: Twitter, Facebook. Co-sponsor of transparency bill in House.

Anton Gunn: Twitter, Facebook. Co-sponsor of transparency bill in House.

(Note: I listed those folks who have at least “two transparent things” I’m aware of: blog, twitter, facebook, or co-sponsorship of transparency bills. If I have left out any, please let me know.)

What's behind door number one?

We all remember the old game show “Let’s Make a Deal”.

Sadly, it seems there’s alot of that going on in politics these days – but tonight, I’m as excited as a gameshow contestant about soon being able to see behind door number one…and two…of the political mystery of secret votes and secret money.

On December 9th, there will be two common-sense bills pre-filed for the 118th session of the General Assembly.

While these bills won’t immediately improve our economic climate, solve our educational woes, or provide money to fix our state budget, they will start the long-overdue process of providing tranpsarency and more accountability of our elected officials (and candidates).

First, we have the On-The-Record Voting Bill which will be prefiled by Representative Nikki Haley. The list of co-sponsors has grown in recent weeks and, after the House leadership decides who will chair committees and who will serve on what committee (December 2 and 3), I’ll go public with the list of co-sponsors. (Note: I don’t want to put any members in jeopardy – before committee assignments – because they are supporting the bill.)

Of course, if I’m to believe the public comments of some officials, it appears everyone is now on board. That’s a drastic change of heart just a few short months removed from our closed-door Republican Caucus meeting earlier this summer. I hope everyone is serious with what they’re saying now. What I’m afraid of is that an “ol’ political-hijack” may be coming when someone suddenly proposes a weak, procedural “rule-change” or another voting bill with no teeth. The rule or bill LOOKS like it does the same thing – but it doesn’t. We’ve seen this before – as recently as last year with Earmark Reform. The bills had teeth, the rule was for show. Not until members asked about the list of earmarks did “request sheets” get passed around to cover the stuff (pork) already put in. Then – only on the same day as the budget debate started – was that Earmark list presented to the members.

Stay tuned…career politicians are good at taking ideas they were originally against, realizing their mistake, filing a new weaker version, and swooping in for credit without having to do the real legwork.

Behind that bill will be my Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill . Just as the On-The-Record Bill will hold elected officials accountable for their votes, this bill will hold elected officials (and candidates) accountable for the funding of their campaigns. No longer will there be “the dark period” two weeks before the election where (in the past) thousands of dollars arrived but didn’t have to be disclosed until AFTER the election.

Let me be clear, I don’t care where folks get their money (as long as it’s legal). Just let everyone know who’s sending it and when you get it. Also, let’s start following the money involved in county races and school board races. Those candidates/officials haven’t been required to report on-line like House/Senate/Constitutional officers have. Do we not care what’s going on at that level?

These two bills are just a start. Later this year look for other members to continue with common-sense reforms that allow YOU to follow the money (government and officials)! Who are those members? Some you know, some are new, and some are now becoming more vocal in speaking up for their constituents and not worrying about the consequences of not “going along to get along” with the status-quo politicians.

Inside Moves: Part One of Three


I’m more of a checkers guy myself, but anyway..

As the 118th regular session of the South Carolina General Assembly approaches, I’m starting to see some story lines develop that might not make the front-pages of your newspaper but are certainly going to have some impact on the House of Representatives.

Tonight is Part One of Three.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share the other parts of this post: “The battles” and finally “The issues”.

1) Rules are made to be broken?

Recently, there’s been talk of changing the long-standing tradition that says every committee will vote for their chairman. To give you full disclosure, there was a very brief, two-year time when former Speaker of the House David Wilkins changed that rule and was able to then appoint chairmen. He soon changed it back like it had always been though. So, for at least the last 10 years (and roughly 100 years before then) it’s always been committee members voting for chairman. While I (and several others) have our opinions on why the sudden rule-proposal has come to light, there’s no denying it’s some sort of power play inside the chamber. It obviously gives the Speaker position much power but who else? Does it help the majority party (Republicans presently)? What about actually empowering the minority party leader too? As it stands today, the Ds (minority party) have as hard a time as the Rs (majority party) coming together and voting in blocs. If the Speaker position gets the power to appoint all chairmen, the Speaker would have to “check in” with the minority party out of courtesy, right? Thus, enabling the minority leader to wield more power and leverage by pretty much then sharing with his/her party “what the deal will be.” We’ll see how this plays out in a few weeks or possibly early January 2009.

While that rule-proposal has been all the talk recently, look out for the possibility of a “On The Record” Rule change being proposed . The question is will it will be window-dressing pushed by status-quo members wanting to look like they support the concept with a watered-down version (ala Earmark Reform Rule passed last year) or will it will be a legitimate rule change presented by Rep. Nikki Haley (Lexington)? Earlier this year Representative Haley sent all 124 members copies of both her bill and her rule change proposal . Those are the legislation we must pass in order to restore accountability and public trust in elected officials.

2) Committee assignments and Committee Chairmanships

The first week of December, the House will hold our Reorganizational Session. At this time you may see rule changes proposed (like the ones above) but it’s also a time where each member receives his/her committee assignment (usually for the next two years, at least). [Read more…]

(UPDATED 10/19/08) Clean Money – it is possible, you know?

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October 19th: As of today, the following have agreed to co-sponsor the bill: Haley, Hamilton, Wylie, Roland Smith, Huggins, Pitts, Simrill, Murrell Smith, Cobb-Hunter, Harrell, Merrill, Gullick, James Smith, Owens, Philips, Jennings, Garry Smith.
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Having two kids under the age of 4 , I tend to have alot of spilled milk around our house that leads to alot of cleanups. In your house (the State House), we also have alot of cleanups that should be going on as well. And many of us are trying.

Last year, it was Earmark Reform . While we didn’t pass my bill, we did pass a version of the bill (less teeth that I had hoped) as a House Rule.

Last month, we talked about On-The-Record Voting (which I’m pleased to say is gaining momentum all over the state…local civic groups….. newspaper editorials …. elected officials from both parties …..basically, anyone with a brain!)

Now, it’s time to clean up the mother’s-milk of politics: MONEY . Or, specifically, how elected officials and candidates for office disclose their contributions.

It really bothers me that there’s an expression in politics that says: “There are two types of candidates. Those that raise money – and losers.” While this is not always the case (note: several candidates have worked their tail off and been outspent by large amounts and still come out on top), money can be a good indicator of how much support a person has garnered.

As someone who had NO ONE in his corner on Day One (well, actually had 10 folks at my house in December 2003), I really don’t fault anyone for accepting any money, from anywhere, at anytime (as long as it’s legal). Folks, it costs money to run races and (people often forget) to stay in touch with your constituents. Those constituent surveys, constituent-service nights, end-of-year summaries and phone calls aren’t free!

Much has been made in the past few years about “out-of-state money” trying to influence our state government. I’m not sure if I believe the crowd that says it’s all bad. I certainly would also never say that folks are ever “bought and paid for.” [Read more…]

A Heartbeat Away in SC

Earlier this year, I wrote about the “under the dome” races currently underway to see who will lead House Committees and the House Republican Caucus next year when the General Assembly returns.

Recently, other blogs have speculated on the possible candidates to replace Governor Mark Sanford when his two terms ends.

Tonight, I’ll give you four names who are considering running for SC2. Names you haven’t heard – yet – but soon will. You’ve already heard about Mike Campbell who is “95% certain he will run”. The guys I’m about to mention aren’t quite there yet, but they are listening to folks from around the state and will no doubt have to make “the decision” within the next few months.

I consider these four friends, and I may not endorse anyone because of that fact. I’ve served with three in the House and the fourth is my constituent. Of course, before I go sharing their names, let’s remember the big “wildcard” in all this: what will our current Lt. Governor do? He’s being pushed by several folks to run for the top spot but if he passes, scenarios greatly change. [Read more…]