SC House panel wants to create larger ethics commission

ashain@thetstate.comApril 8, 2014 

Selling The Capitol

The South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C

BRUCE SMITH — AP

— An enlarged ethics commission would probe wrongdoing and punish S.C. lawmakers and judges under a proposal approved Tuesday by a special S.C. House panel.

The House is trying to reach a compromise on differing ethics reform plans approved in both chambers of the General Assembly.

The proposed S.C. Commission on Ethics Enforcement and Disclosure would cover all three branches of government and replace the State Ethics Commission, House and Senate ethics committees, and Commission on Judicial Conduct, said House Judiciary Committee chairman Greg Delleney, R-Chester.

The new commission would be made up of two state representatives, two senators, four gubernatorial appointees and four judges.

The proposal takes an ethics bill, approved by the House last year, a step farther by including judges. The state Senate’s version of ethics reform would keep oversight of lawmakers in the House and Senate ethics committees.

The Senate and House need to agree on a bill before its can go to Gov. Nikki Haley, who has made ethics reform one of her legislative goals in this election year.

Haley sent a letter to all House members Tuesday asking them to adopt an independent group to investigate lawmakers so they would not be policing themselves.

Haley wants the Ethics Commission to investigate complaints against legislators and refer cases to the House or Senate ethics committees or, in the case of possible criminal violations, to the state attorney general for hearings and possible punishment.

She also wants legislators to be required to disclose the sources of their private income, including government contracts. Now, lawmakers only need to disclose the money they are paid by government and companies that lobby legislators.

The House panel agreed Tuesday to the Senate’s proposal concerning income disclosure.

The Senate version expanded the information that lawmakers and their families must disclose to the public but does not include the income amounts, which some legislators oppose disclosing.

The plan, previously approved by the House, called for lawmakers to disclose where they and their families made money and how much they were paid in some cases.

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