MORNING BUZZ: Senate ethics bill does not change the watchdog

Posted by ADAM BEAM and ANDREW SHAIN on February 21, 2014 

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Sometimes to move forward, you need to take a step back.

The state Senate advanced a ethics reform bill after hours of secret negotiations late Thursday.

They agreed lawmakers should not have political action committees, anonymous political groups must reveal their donors and public officials must disclose who is paying them.

But the Senate made no changes to who would enforce those new rules, meaning House lawmakers will regulate House lawmakers, Senate lawmakers will regulate Senate lawmakers, and an ethics commission appointed by the governor will regulate everyone else.

Both candidates for governor – Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen – said they did not support the Senate’s amendment.

Before a final vote, senators agreed to allow lawmakers to introduce new amendments to the bill next week – a dangerous process that could choke the bill. Before Thursday’s agreement, the bill had 61 amendments on the desk – enough debate to tie up the Senate for the rest of the session.

Read the full story on the ethics reform compromise

Top clicks

House panel passes $24 billion budget: The House’s main budget panel Thursday approved a $24 billion spending plan for next year that includes a 1.5 percent pay raise for state employees, 31 new State Law Enforcement Division agents and at least $65 million for an education initiative backed by Gov. Nikki Haley. Lawmakers also cut state money to two colleges for requiring freshmen to read gay-themed books. Full story

Industrial hemp production bill advances: With little debate but many qualifications, a state Senate panel Thursday advanced a bill to allow the cultivation of hemp in South Carolina. That’s industrial hemp, not marijuana. Full story

State settles Occupy Columbia lawsuit: The state of South Carolina will pay $192,000 to 14 Occupy Columbia protestors after they reached a settlement in a 2011 lawsuit against Gov. Nikki Haley and state police. Full story

Happening today

• An invitation-only appreciation reception is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. for former Sen. Dick Elliott at the Atlantic Beach Community Center in Atlantic Beach, The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News reports. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, will be the guest speaker.

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule

• Today-Saturday, Participate in the Republican Governors Association’s Winter Meetings in Washington, D.C.

• Sunday, 6 p.m.: Attend a White House dinner with fellow governors.

• Monday, 10 a.m.: Meet with President Barack Obama and fellow governors at The White House

State House Clicks

Legislator's divorce has the attention of federal authorities : Fallout from state Rep. Andy Patrick's divorce case has attracted the attention of the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents, interviews and statements made in court. Full story

Lawmakers; No need for video tape arrest: Lawmakers say a Pickens County woman shouldn’t have been arrested for failing to return a rented video nine years ago to a store no longer in business. And the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he will look into whether lawmakers can do anything to prohibit arrests of people charged with crimes no longer on the books on behalf of companies no longer in business. Full story

Statewide texting ban passes first test: South Carolina drivers should be subject to stiff fines and penalties for texting while driving, a state Senate subcommittee decided Thursday, as senators try to gain momentum on an issue where municipalities around the state have begun to enforce their own bans. Full story

SC Clicks

EPA hits SC repeat violator: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced action Thursday against a utility corporation whose companies have a legacy of sewage spills and green law violations across South Carolina. Full story

Duncan chats in the district: Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, who plans to seek a third term this year, touched on a number of topics during an address in Greenwood, including the national debt and various energy-related items. Full story

Election Clicks

Bright picks up Tea Party endorsements: State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, picked up several endorsements Thursday from Tea Party leaders across the state in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. Full story

Schools chief candidate pool grows: A University of South Carolina professor has entered the race for state schools chief. Full story

Graham talks foreign policy at Winthrop: Sen. Lindsey Graham took a break from domestic policy to vouch for greater U.S. involvement in the Middle East during a lecture at Winthrop University on Thursday morning. Full story

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham opens his 2014 re-election campaign office in Rock Hill on Thursday. (Photo by Jie Jenny Zou/The (Rock Hill) Herald)

State House meetings today

Joint

• 9 a.m., Joint Legislative Committee to Screen Candidates for Colleges and University Boards of Trustees (Gressette Room 209, Agenda)

Senate

• 10:30 a.m., Finance Criminal Justice Subcommittee Budget Hearing (Gressette Room 105, Agenda)

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