Five and half years ago, the “State House Website” had some major changes (improvements) that helped enable everyone who visited the site to stay and be more informed. (Coincidentally the change came months after Governor Haley signed into law the bill she and I had pushed for years: On the Record Voting/Roll Call Voting ) Yes, I remember hearing from colleagues “why record our votes? People will use that against us”. Of course, I thought that was not reason enough to stop the push for transparency. In fact, that’s even more reason we needed to push for transparency: to record our votes. We also were told “recording votes costs too much money” and to this day, I still hear “this is such a waste of time” (especially with the budget where almost every vote on the first day or two is unanimous or overhelmingly lopsided 100-10 or something like that).
I was amazed at how user-friendly the new site was and I continue to be impressed with ongoing changes made to provide more information (usually). In fact, in 2015 our Legislative Services Agency was recognized nationally with an achievement award for (among others things) the innovations on our website. (Page 16 in pdf)
Earlier this year, someone pointed out a change that didn’t show our attendance votes in one easy-to-read page like they used to. I thought that was weird but was told that in last year’s campaigns, opponents were using website info (incorrectly)saying members weren’t there, when the reality was (and is) many members make it to the chamber after the recorded roll-call is taken. So while the website was showing not-present, most the time that meant not-present “right after prayer and pledge” when the roll-call was closed. After hearing that, I see now why many members back in the day were fighting all this transparency. Made me think back to last summer, when my opponent tried to make an issue out of me not voting 100% of the time because he was retired and could make the monthly meetings he had for County Council and supposedly “never missed a vote”. I don’t know any member who has ever done that in the House or Senate. Many reasons why. First, we meet 3 days a week for 5 months and take 1,000+ votes a year. Sometimes we may take 100 or 200 in a day (budget). Many of us (like me) don’t vote on “local issues” (like another county or district’s voting lines or school board make-up or…things like SC Native Plants Week). Many times we are in meetings in our offices, in lobby with constituents or others and miss votes. Sometimes we actually have a life and are called away (because of work or family) and aren’t present to vote. Heck, I missed one day of the budget and missed 170 votes. All those votes were like 100-2 (closest ones that day were 70-3 or 66-14 with all the others 90ish to 3).
Just recently, I came across the page you see above. People rarely know how many bills are filed, how many become law, and frankly – how bills BECOME laws . So this one page (“Legislation”) is really an eye-opener. If you haven’t been to the site, you should check it out. The video coverage is live streamed (a few seconds delay) and the “Chamber Dashboard” has bills and amendments LIVE as we debate. You get to see what House and Senate members see!
This site is also where you can contact your elected officials. Heads up though, most of us have “automatic replies”. While many replies say “thanks, I read them all but don’t reply”, I direct members of our community to be sure to put CONSTITUENT in the subject line or contact me here because it helps me respond much quicker.
Back to the title – how many new laws since January?
Depending on your preference, it could be viewed as “good” or “bad” that we’ve passed seventeen this session (and are 9 legislative days away from Sine Die). But that’s the reality. Each session may hold 2,000 bills and if 100 pass, that’s a big number! This session we’ve been bogged down with the ONE issue that I’ve heard about the most – ROADS. Three times the House has passed a roads bill. Hopefully the Senate will do the same THIS YEAR and we’ll have to see how it ends up in conference committee and what happens when Governor McMaster gets it on his desk. The threat of veto is there. Will it be delivered and can it be overridden is the question.