Ethics, security top agenda for SC House Republicans, Democrats

jself@thestate.comJanuary 3, 2013 

S.C. legislators say ethics and elections reform, as well as protecting taxpayers from another massive theft of personal information are at the top of their agendas for the upcoming legislative session.

The S.C. House Republican and Democratic caucuses unveiled their agendas at workshop Thursday hosted by the S.C. Press Association. Lawmakers return to Columbia next week for the opening of the 2013 session.

Some of the reforms, said House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, are brand new -- the “results of unforeseen consequences that were thrust on our state” last year.

Calls for changes to the state’s election laws follow last year’s ballot debacle, which saw 250 candidates statewide removed from the ballot for not filing their paperwork properly.

The widespread calls for the next big wave of ethics reforms in 20 years follow a year of high-profile ethics cases.

Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, R-Florence, resigned and pleaded guilty to ethics violations following an investigation into his use of campaign money. The S.C. House Ethics Committee twice heard allegations Gov. Nikki Haley, R-Lexington, used her position while a state representative for financial gain. Haley was cleared both times and has pledged to push ethics reforms, forming a special committee to look at the issue. Speaker Harrell’s use of campaign money to reimburse himself for travel expenses also came under scrutiny.

Tax and regulatory reform, fighting the enactment of President Barack Obama’s health-care law, and pushing for government restructuring also are priorities for Republicans, who control the House.

State Rep. Harry Ott of Calhoun County unveiled House Democrats’ plan to push for early voting and education reform.

House Democrats also will push for “full funding” of education based on current funding approaches and the enactment of early childhood education programs, the House minority leader said.

The Democratic caucus also favors expanding the state’s Medicaid program and keeping state employees from having to pay more for their health insurance.

Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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