01 Feb Ethics, Education & Streamlining Government
Exactly one year ago this week I wrote to notify you:
The South Carolina House of Representatives advanced two important milestone pieces of legislation taking a major step forward in overhauling the state’s antiquated ethics laws that govern elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
The first, revamps the makeup of the South Carolina Ethics Commission and turns the Commission into an independent investigative body. The independent commission is given the full resources of the South Carolina law enforcement community and is tasked with investigating ethics complaints made against elected officials. Under the House plan, the State Ethics Commission is comprised of 4 members appointed by the Governor, 4 elected by the Supreme Court, and 2 members elected by each the House and Senate. The measure passed the House unanimously.
The second, bans candidate affiliated “Leadership” Political Action Committees (PAC). It even goes one step further and states that elected officials can no longer accept campaign contributions from Leadership PAC’s. This is an important step toward cleaning up the campaign finance laws in South Carolina.
I am saddened to report a year later that both bills still sit in the Senate where senators have made it clear that ethics reform is not a priority. We will continue to champion ethics reform and I ask you to stand with me. If the Senate would simply debate and vote on the important reforms we sent them last year and accomplished nothing else, they would actually have a chance making a positive difference this year.
Also this week in the House, we introduced the first phase of our education reform package. The hardworking taxpayers of South Carolina deserve a better education achievement than the “minimally adequate” standard. I will be working to help shape education reform that provides value to the taxpayer and results for parents and students. I will have more on these reforms as they move through the legislative committee process.
At this time of the year – in the early parts of the session – more time is spent in legislative committee meetings than on the Senate and House floors. When a new bill is introduced, it must go through a committee before being brought to the floor for a vote. Detailed below are several of these new bills, and other events at the capitol:
SENATE DEBATES ROADS BILL:
A comprehensive bill to repair SC’s transportation infrastructure and reform the Department of Transportation, which some senators are calling their top priority this year, is undergoing debate this week in the state Senate. Proposals to fund this bill have included a hike in gas taxes offset by a cut to income taxes or sales taxes.
ARMING TEACHERS TO DEFEND SCHOOLS:
The “School Protection Officer Act” introduced this week permits teachers and other school officials or employees to be designated as School Protection Officers by governing boards of their schools, and allowing these individuals to carry firearms on public school campuses. These officers must undergo a training course offered by the Criminal Justice Academy.
FARM AID FUND:
A bill proposes to create a state Farm Aid Fund and Farm Aid Board which will provide financial assistance to farmers who lose at least forty percent of their agricultural commodities as a result of natural disasters.
Two newly introduced bills pertaining to fishing and marine resource management were introduced this past week. The first bill proposes to allow the SC Department of Natural Resources to issue permits for releasing or stocking grass carp/white amur fish. These fish are commonly used to control the growth of the aquatic plant life that they eat. The second bill designates all SC waters south of Jeremy Inlet, Edisto Island as the “Southern Cobia Management Zone”. The possession of cobia caught in the Southern Cobia Management Zone is limited to one per person per day, and no more than three per boat per day, from June 1 to April 30. They are subject to federal size regulations. It is unlawful to take and possess cobia in the Southern Cobia Management Zone from May 1 to May 31, and at any time federal regulations provide for the closure of the recreational cobia season in the waters of the South Atlantic Ocean.
SECOND AMENDMENT AND SELF-DEFENSE:
Several bills were introduced in the Judiciary Committee relating to gun ownership and self-defense. The first bill seeks to ensure that the state will not enforce any limitations on individuals possessing firearms, and prevents using state or federal funds to enforce required registration or confiscation of firearms. The second bill, relating to self-defense, establishes hearing procedures of evidence to determine justifiable usage of deadly force, and provides that court judgments denying immunity from prosecution for using deadly force will be appealable. The third bill makes it illegal to sell or give a firearm to individuals on a terrorist watch list and establishes penalties for those who do.
Finally, we have become more efficient this year by adopting legislative rules that keep the House ever-focused on the business of the people. We have limited ceremonial recognitions to only 15-minutes per day, allowing us to be more productive. As a conservative I am committed to continuing to streamline government.