SC politics: Ethics reform heads to Tuesday showdown

May 30, 2014 

Ethics reform heads to Tuesday showdown

A committee of state representatives and senators will meet Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. to attempt to agree on changes to the state’s ethics law.

But the top priority for Gov. Nikki Haley – forming an independent body to investigate alleged ethics violations against lawmakers – likely will not be part of the deal, senators have said.

The House and Senate ethics committees now investigate ethics complaints against their members, a conflict-of-interest riddled system, critics say, because it gives lawmakers authority to police themselves.

The Senate did not include an independent oversight panel in its ethics reform proposal bill, expressing confidence that its Ethics Committee has worked as intended. But the House created a new oversight body.

However, critics have said the House’s proposed panel – which would oversee judges, public officials and employees – is too expansive and raises too many problems late in the two-year debate on how best to improve the state’s ethics laws.

As a result, the House plan likely is doomed, leaving the joint House-Senate committee with the Senate’s plan for ethics oversight, which leaves lawmakers policing their own.

Both bills would require lawmakers to disclose all sources of their income and that of their immediate family, ban committees from having ties to political action committees, and redefine political committees so they have to disclose their campaign activities.

Charleston university bill revived in House

The S.C. House has resurrected an attempt to create a comprehensive research university in Charleston.

The House on Thursday attached an amendment to establish the University of Charleston onto a regulatory relief bill that allows colleges to bypass multiple layers of state approvals for certain construction projects. The amended bill passed 82-13 and returns to the Senate.

The move is an attempt to establish a comprehensive research university at the College of Charleston before the session ends next week. A separate bill to do that appeared to die Wednesday when Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, and Senate President Pro Tem John Courson, R-Richland, placed procedural holds on it.

Courson said he opposed the proposal moving to the Senate floor without it first being vetted in the Education Committee that he chairs.

State representative endorses Childs

State Rep. Mike Burns, R-Greenville, Thursday endorsed Meka Childs for superintendent of education.

Childs is one of eight Republicans running for the job in June’s GOP primary. She is a former public school teacher, education policy adviser to Gov. Mark Sanford and deputy superintendent of education under current Republican Superintendent Mick Zais. Zais, who is not seeking re-election, also has endorsed Childs.

“I know Meka will be a champion for individualizing education, and her support for public, private, charter, single-gender, Montessori, vocational, home school, virtual and many other forms of education is unquestionable,” Burns said in a release issued by Childs’ campaign.

Cassie Cope, The Associated Press

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