The state Senate spent much of Wednesday in recess so lawmakers could discuss a controversial ethics bill in private.
This is what they came up with: The State Law Enforcement Division would investigate complaints against lawmakers. But state lawmakers would have the final say on if a violation occurred and whether to make that violation public.
That's different from the House version, which would empower the State Ethics Commission to investigate complaints and force lawmakers to hold public hearings on them.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Larry Martin said the compromise is "not anything close to what we would have all preferred," but said it is the best chance to get something passed quickly that would not tie up the Senate for the rest of the session.
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"The perception is the old 'fox guarding the hen house,'" Martin said, quoting lawmakers' favorite expression when discussing ethics reform. "What I'm about is trying to get a bill that improves that process."
The Senate is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. The ethics bill has 60 amendments pending. If lawmakers agree to the compromise, most of those amendments would be withdrawn and it would clear the way for the Senate to vote on the bill, with a final vote scheduled for next week.
But the compromise could easily fall apart.
"Does it become law? Tune in and see. It will be a difficult bill to end up passing," Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, said on Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell's TV show Thursday morning.