Making Democracy Work

Ethics in State Government

WE CARE ABOUT ETHICS

South Carolina is in the midst of a major ethics reform movement.

Why should you care?

    Got Ethics?
  1. Citizens need information about candidates, about the origin of efforts to influence them, and about the operation of our government.
  2. We need to know that our public officials are working for us, not for those who channel money to them through campaign contributions or consulting fees.

If you are concerned about the environment, about fair treatment of small businesses, about education, or about any of the other many areas in which government affects our lives, you should care about ethics reform.

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina supports REAL reform that addresses:

  • Campaign finance donors and expenditures
  • Personal financial disclosure (process and substance) and conflicts of interest
  • Investigation and enforcement
  • Public access to information
  • Leadership and power in South Carolina's government

Where We Stand Today

As the 2015 session of the SC General Assembly wrapped up in June, ethics reform stalled in the Senate.

The year started with the best intentions. In the Senate, Larrry Martin pre-filed a comprehensive reform bill, S.1. The House held very thorough pre-session hearings to consider ethics issues and develop draft bills.

The Senate's work on S.1. included behind-the-scene negotiations to get S.1. out of committee, only to have the bill fail on the floor. Senator Luke Rankin offered an amendment to provide an investigation mechanism that passed with the support of some Republicans and the Democratic caucus. The resulting bill was so flawed that supporters of the original bill voted against it.

The pre-session work in the House, resulted in several smaller bills that were drafted, debated in subcommittees, committees, and on the floor of the house. They successfully deliberated, ammended bills, and passed them. The House, under the leadership of Speaker Jay Lucas, did its job.

Not having passed their own bill, the Senate was prepared to consider the House's bills, but only if they were combined into a single bill, so the House combined them as H.3722. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Senator Larry Martin, the Senate replaced the text of H.3722 with the language of S.1. without the Rankin amendment and passed it onto the floor for debate. H.3722 stalled when Senator Kent Williams used one of the Senate Rules to file an objection in which "Senator Williams desires to be present." Senator Martin attempted to go back to the smaller bills sent over by the House and address each one separately, only to have each of these bills stalled by objections from senators Lee Bright (minority reports on donor disclosure bills) and John Matthews (objections on private income disclosure and other ethics measures), each representing larger coalitions of legislators who wished to stop debate of these bills.

In 2016, senators who put the objections on the bills can remove their objections or two-thirds of the Senate members could vote to overcome the objections and provide special order to bring either H.3772 or the smaller bills to the Senate floor for debate and vote.

2016 will be the year in which we learn if two-thirds of our Senators are in Columbia for their own benefit or for the citizens of the state of South Carolina.

For more a more detailed overview of what happened to Ethics Reform in 2015 and where it needs to go in 2016, see our Fall 2015 Ethics Reform Update.

WHICH WAY DOES YOUR LEGISLATOR TRAVEL?

high road or low road Call or write your representatives and tell them to support the bills and the amendments needed to move South Carolina into a new era of confidence in our government.

WE WANT REAL REFORM.

Send the message, loud and clear, that we demand real reform now.

Find your elected officials

Conflict Watch: Get Involved

The LWVSC board has voted to participate in Project Conflict Watch, an initiative of the South Carolina Policy Council. We are committed to efforts that require full income disclosure by elected officials through reform of ethics legislation. However, while the legislative process continues, this project provides an opportunity for our elected officials in state government to voluntarily disclose their sources of income, and thus their potential conflicts of interest with the public. We hope that League members will cooperate by asking those who represent you to participate.

Complete instructions and the form that officials are asked to complete are available at http://www.scpolicycouncil.org/conflict-watch. You can also check to see if your representatives have already cooperated with the project. This is not only an opportunity to learn about individual officials, but a chance to remind South Carolina's officials that we are watching and want to see a strong commitment to ethical behavior from all of them.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

LATEST RESOURCES AND TESTIMONY ON ETHICS REFORM

RESOURCES FROM PRIOR YEARS