One of the big stories coming out of Columbia last week was the report issued by the Ethics Commission appointed by Gov. Haley and led by two former Attorneys General.
That group, along with three others from the House and Senate, has been studying ethics rules for lawmakers, lobbyists, campaign contributors and the like. The House Majority Ethics Study Committee, of which I am a member, reviewed the Commission’s recommendations and agrees with many.
The legislation would require the disclosure of private income sources as a component of the annual Statement of Economic Interest filed by all public officials. In addition, it would abolish "Leadership PACs" and enhance both the level and number of penalties available to the Ethics Commission for violations of the Ethics Act.
It also would define "economic interest" to include not only economic benefit but also the avoidance of loss and numerous new requirements and restrictions about public officials’ financial relationships with state and local governments as well as companies with lobbying interests.
The Commission also offered a series of recommendations to strengthen SC's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Most of those recommendations were already included in the FOIA Bill H.3163, which I am co-sponsoring.
The House Education and Public Works Committee approved the No Texting While Driving Bill H.3121.
The bill provides strong penalties for texting while behind the wheel, particularly if a person is involved in an accident that hurts others. A Rasmussen poll shows 94 percent of Americans oppose texting while driving. The bill came to the House floor for debate this past Wednesday and unfortunately a motion was made to send the bill to the Judiciary Committee for additional hearings.
I’ve talked to several members of the Judiciary Committee including the Chairman and have been promised the bill will get fast review and sent back to the floor. South Carolina is a step closer to joining 39 other states in banning texting while driving.
H.3229 addresses issues with the South Carolina High School League.
The League is responsible for organizing the state’s interscholastic sports for public and private schools. This past year the League eliminated Goose Creek High School from participating in the championship game because the high school self-reported an administrative error which, according to the League, made one player ineligible and subsequently disqualified all 70 players from the play-offs.
When this happened I began to look into League decisions over the past few years.
The decisions of the League are not consistent nor do they take into consideration extraordinary circumstances or medical conditions of the student athlete, which their Constitution allows. Several similar bills have been introduced this year to help improve the League.
My bill (H.3229) would eliminate the S.C. High School League and create the Department of Interscholastic Sports under the State Department of Education. During preliminary discussions about all the bills dealing with the High School League, the Legislature asked the League to reform itself by considering three recommendations from the Legislature.
The first was to have a separate appeals board to hear all appeals. Second recommendation was to establish a series of penalties that could be enforced without penalizing all the students for the mistake or oversight of a rule. The third recommendation was to make the League's Executive Committee look more representative of the state population.
The League refused to consider these recommendations. My bill passed unanimously out of subcommittee and now will be on the full committee agenda when we come back session on Feb. 19.
Another bill of interest would shorten the Legislative session by nearly two months. The bill passed the House with a strong bi-partisan 92-9 vote.
The bill now goes to the Senate and if approved by a 2/3 majority it would go to the voters for approval in November 2014.
The House of Representatives is on furlough the week of Feb. 11 through 15.
As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 553-9288 or at the State House (803) 734-2951, or email me at email@example.com.