Acting S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas is pushing for ethics reform and quickly.
A month after his predecessor House Speaker Bobby Harrell was indicted on charges of public corruption and suspended from office, Lucas has named committees to address calls for ethics reform.
Lucas, who is all but assured of being elected House speaker next month, wants the House to deal with the ethics issue early in its session that starts in January, he told a subcommittee of the ethics and Freedom of Information Act study committee.
“In dealing with ethics this time around, I would like us to try to avoid some of the mistakes or missteps that plagued us last year,” Lucas told the panel.
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House members will be busy this week trying to fulfill Lucas’ request.
This week, the Freedom of Information Act and campaign finance subcommittees will meet along with the House rules and procedures committee.
Lucas wants pre-filed ethics legislation so House members quickly can act when the legislative session begins, he said last week.
He also wants ethics bills that deal with topics individually. Previous reform bills have died under the weight of the multiple reform ideas included in the proposals, he said.
(And The Buzz really looks forward to that roll-call vote on whether legislators should exclude themselves from the state’s open-records law.)
Lucas said he wants a shorter bill that people can read and understand, criticizing previous voluminous bills for causing legislators and the public to be fearful something impolitic might have been slipped into the proposals.
Lucas said it is critical the House Ethics Committee only deal with civil violations. The state attorney general can deal with criminal issues, and the state Department of Revenue can deal with tax issues, he said.
Lucas also supports an independent agency to review and investigate ethics complaints, an idea thus-far opposed in the state Senate.
Lucas asked the subcommittee members to simplify the ethics laws. “Let’s be more accountable to the public, and let’s have a process that everyone can easily follow.”
But not everyone is sure the state’s weak ethics laws can — or should — be saved.
S.C. Policy Council head Ashley Landess told a group of S.C. House members last week that the best use of their subcommittee, charged with reforming the ethics laws, would be to get rid of the laws and let the state’s law-enforcement system investigate and punish miscreants.
While lawmakers might not bite on that proposal, they did sit and listen to Landess, who originally brought the complaints against Harrell, and other activists, including Common Cause’s John Crangle, Tea Party activist Talbert Black and the League of Women Voters vice president Lynn Teague.
Sellers backed by S.C. Association of Realtors
Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley have a little in common.
Both were raised in Bamberg County. And they took a concealed-weapons permit class together.
Now, they share something else – endorsements from the S.C. Association of Realtors in their November races.
Sellers, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, won the backing of the trade group of real-estate sales pros a week after it endorsed the GOP governor.
In its endorsement of the now-Lexington Republican, the real estate group praised Haley for pushing regulatory, tax and insurance changes, and recruiting more jobs.
The group did not provide a statement about why it backed Sellers, who faces Republican Henry McMaster of Columbia – a former state attorney general and Haley ally — in the race for the state’s No. 2 job.
But Sellers certainly is sharing the news like he has an open house for a three-bedroom, two-bath house in a popular school district.
Speaking of endorsing, with a month to go before Election Day, state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, has announced an endorsement of his own.
Last week, Hutto endorsed the campaign finance reform group MaydayPAC, according to a news release, saying it’s time to change the way elections are paid for. No more collecting millions from private donors, business PACs and unions, the group says. Elections should be publicly- — meaning taxpayer- — financed.
Don’t expect S.C. Republicans — who easily out-fundraise their Democratic rivals — to endorse the idea, however.
For example, Hutto’s opponent in the U.S. Senate race, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, has raised more than $10 million for this year’s elections and primaries. Meanwhile, Hutto has raised less than $500,000.
Twitter Buzz bites
• Vice PresidentJoe Biden
will be in Columbia Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. to attenda “Commit to Vote Rally”
at Allen University for the S.C. Democratic Party. Much like when he spoke at the University of South Carolina’s spring commencement, security will be tight. The what-not-to-bring list ranges from toy weapons to soda cans.
• The Buzz was excited to get new official State House photographs of acting House Speaker Lucas. The previous black-and-white photo — from the ’90s? — would make for a great throwback Thursday, but The Buzz is excited readers now can see what Lucas looks like in color.
Staff writer Andy Shain contributed.