The Buzz

Haley claims credit for SC ethics reform

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley applauds members of the gallery as she delivers her State of the State address to the joint session of the legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley applauds members of the gallery as she delivers her State of the State address to the joint session of the legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt) AP

Lame duck? Not so fast, says S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.

The Republican governor succeeded in ousting just two of the four incumbent state senators she campaigned against in June’s GOP primaries and runoffs.

But on Thursday, Haley declared her efforts victorious, saying her intervention pressured incumbents to discuss and then pass much-needed ethics reform this year. A Haley-affiliated political group raised more than $500,000 in an attempt to oust the incumbents.

“What you saw in the races was every one of the incumbents had to talk about ethics for the first time,” Haley said. “Even the ones who tried to kill it had no choice but to campaign on it, and, so, when that happened, they had to vote for it.”

But one of those ousted, state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, isn’t buying Haley’s victory lap.

Hayes was one of the Legislature’s strongest advocates of ethics reform, but Haley supported his primary challenger nonetheless.

In his farewell speech to the Senate, Hayes even asked his colleagues to send him out of office by passing two ethics reform proposals. One bars lawmakers from investigating themselves; the other requires public officials to reveal their sources of private income.

On June 15, a day after the statewide primary, senators passed the proposals as Hayes had urged.

“That twist on who she supported and who she didn’t – I would never have seen any connection (to ethics reform) and still don’t,” Hayes said.

State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, a Haley ally, said he isn’t certain what effect Haley’s primary campaigning had on the ethics proposals, though he praised her efforts in pushing them.

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, who lost his own primary runoff Tuesday, said two senators Haley tried and failed to oust – Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and state Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Horry – “did not fight it (ethics reform) to the degree that they did last year.”

Last year, Rankin’s amendment to an ethics reform bill led to its demise, Martin said. This time around, the ethics proposals passed 41-0 in the Senate.

“All I know is that both of them assured their constituencies that they were in favor of ethics reform,” Martin said. “They had a chance to vote on it that last day ... and I think that was incredibly important.”

In a text message, Rankin said he always has supported ethics reform.

“In fact, I fought for even stronger reforms than the Governor supported. Go chants!!” Rankin wrote Thursday, shortly after Coastal Carolina University’s baseball team won the College World Series.

Haley said Thursday the senators needed a push to act.

“If I couldn’t get them talking about it, and I couldn’t get them saying they were for it, it wasn’t going to get it passed,” Haley said. “I was able to get them to talk about it, have to admit that they were for it and then come back in these chambers and vote for ethics reform.”

Power to the (young) people

Who says college students aren’t politically active?

Hundreds of students at two Columbia colleges recently signed petitions asking their respective administrations for a break.

The problem at the University of South Carolina is parking, students say.

USC trustees recently approved raising the price of parking garage permits by $40, to $800 a year. The cost of of parking on surface lots also was increased $10, to $110 a year.

Parking is an important issue to students at USC, where the student body has grown explosively. Due to increased development, the number of available parking spaces near the school’s downtown campus also has dropped.

By Friday, more than 430 students had signed a petition concerning parking directed at USC president Harris Pastides.

The students’ proposed solution? Opening up tailgating lots near Williams-Brice Stadium and shuttling students from those lots to USC’s campus and back.

In an email to The Buzz, a USC spokesman said the school is exploring parking alternatives, ranging from a bike-sharing program to additional parking facilities, including remote parking, as suggested in the students’ petition.

But USC must charge fees to pay for its parking operations, spokesman Wes Hickman said, adding that state law bars the university from using tuition money or state appropriations for parking.

“We continuously review parking demand and availability, commuter patterns and housing trends that impact parking on USC’s campus as part of a comprehensive strategy that includes parking facilities but also encourages alternative forms of transportation, including shuttles and bicycle usage,” Hickman said.

Meanwhile, at Benedict College, some students are up in arms about a 7 percent percent tuition hike for boarding students, the private school’s first hike since 2012. The students’ petition, “Take Back Benedict,” also had more than 430 signatures by Friday.

Addressed to Benedict College president David Swinton, the petition says classrooms, dorms and labs are in “decrepit condition.” Benedict’s administration also has overstepped its bounds by policing student life and Greek organizations, the petition says, adding school leaders offered no justification for a tuition increase.

Swinton fired back Monday with his own letter, defending Benedict’s fiscal decisions and touting the college’s scholarship programs. He said the petition’s student-author “himself has received significant scholarship support from Benedict College.”

“The tuition increase at this time is absolutely essential to maintain the College’s fiscal health and integrity,” Swinton wrote. “After all of the budget reductions and staff retrenchments that could be made without hurting our ability to continue to provide excellent services to our students and other constituencies, we could not balance the budget without a tuition increase.”

Buzz bite

Tweet of the week: Anything that flies off the fingertips of ex-S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, the Charleston Republican who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign money in 2014 and resigned from the Legislature.

Harrell, still going by @SpeakerHarrell on Twitter, now is your friendly neighborhood insurance agent, reminding you to cool off on hot days with a mini fan and to stay off your phone while driving.

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks