The Senate has the power to pass real ethics reform, but too many senators are playing familiar legislative games, holding the bill hostage to benefit some other objective or simply to kill reform. A partisan blame game is underway to claim the other side is responsible for endangering reform, but the reality is that senators from both parties are at fault.
We will soon see who in the Senate has the leadership and courage to move ethics reform off the contested calendar to debate for passage this year. After criticizing the House for its “rushed” approach, the Senate appears to be taking the opposite approach. By doing nothing, the Senate puts at risk all the hard work of so many on this important issue.
Not everyone in the Senate is foot-dragging. Just as those obstructing progress are a bipartisan group, so are those who are working to move ethics forward. Senators such as Larry Martin, Vincent Sheheen and Wes Hayes are working hard for change. But they cannot do it alone. They need help from many other senators to get this done this year.
H.3945 is not without flaws. However, it eliminates leadership PACs and increases requirements for income disclosure and the types of income to be disclosed. Although an independent oversight agency would be the ideal approach to monitor and enforce ethics, the proposed change to the Ethics Commission structure is much better than the existing oversight. Stronger enforcement provisions (especially prohibiting those with unpaid fines from running for office) and routine audits of disclosures would improve the bill, but overall H.3945 is the most comprehensive ethics reform we have seen in South Carolina.
Now is the time to pass ethics reform. No more waiting; no more delays. Our General Assembly must give the citizens the transparency and good government they deserve. To hold up ethics reform is to say yes to business as usual. In an era of fierce competition for business, jobs and economic development, our elected officials must rebuild public trust and proclaim to our citizens and the world the dawn of a new era in Columbia. Senators should be the leaders they proclaim to be and not let this historic opportunity pass them by.
Too many politicians in Columbia don’t want real change. They are hoping the people of South Carolina aren’t watching and don’t really care about political ethics. Let’s prove them wrong. Contact them to demand action on H.3945.
League of Women Voters of South Carolina