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”.