For months, South Carolina legislators, the attorney general and the state election commission have been working on a package of ethics reforms to be considered in the next legislative session.
On Wednesday, Gov. Nikki Haley put forth her own five-point plan for ethics reform, including a number of provisions that would regulate behavior Haley herself engaged in while she was in the Legislature. As reported by Gina Smith in The State, Haley's decision to unilaterally offer up a reform package is drawing fire from some of those who already have been at work on a proposal.
Smith reports: "Haley, recently cleared of ethics violation charges, toured the state with South Carolina's top law-enforcement officer, Attorney General Alan Wilson, to unveil a five-point ethics reform proposal But House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R- Charleston, and others said Haley only is trying to hijack the efforts of lawmakers who have been working on ethics reform legislation for months. “... (I)f we had these reforms in place before Governor Haley committed her actions, she would probably still be meeting with the attorney general, only in a different place,” Harrell said in a statement.''
In response to the criticism, The State reports, Haley said:
“As governor, it’s important for me to lead. You lead and you let the Legislature know what we want,” adding lawmakers likely will come up with additional ethics reforms that will strengthen her plan.To read Gina Smith's full story in The State, click here.
Two legislators in North Dakota are planning to introduce a range of proposals aimed at addressing ethics and transparency in state government, and they are citing the state's abysmal score in the State Integrity Investigation as part of their effort.
As reported by John Celock in the Huffington Post, the proposals by State Reps. Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks) and Ed Gruchalla (D- Fargo) will address campaign finance disclosure, conflict of interest and the need for an ethics watchdog. You can read the full story here.
North Dakota scored a grade of F in the State Integrity Investigation, ranking 43rd among the 50 states. Across the 14 categories rated, North Dakota scored an F in seven of them -- including the categories of polticial financing, legislative accountability, lobbying disclosure and ethics enforcement.
The new proposals, which Mock and Gruchalla will introduce in the 2013 legislative session, include provisions to require state legislative candidates to disclose all donations; establish an ethics commission; require conflict of interest statements for government employees; and require disclosure of all legislative campaign expenses.
North Dakota becomes the fifth state in which legislators have cited the State Integrity Investigation in proposing new legislation to enhance transparency. Three other states have passed reform laws in the wake of the State Integrity Investigation.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was cleared recently in an ethics investigation that focused on whether she should have disclosed that she had a contract with an engineering firm that did millions in state business while she was also serving in the state's legislature. Advocates of transparency in government cite some of the elements of this case in their push to improve the state's ethics laws.
In a story Sunday, The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., explores the issue of ethics reform in South Carolina and the uphill battle those pushing for change may face in the legislature. The story cites South Carolina's F grade and ranking of 45th in the State Integrity Investigation. South Carolina also received an F in the category of ethics enforcement.
The State story details that unlike 44 other states, South Carolina does not require state legislators to fully reveal who they work for or how much they are paid. Their only requirement is to disclose employment and money earned in government jobs and contracts, not in the private sector. This leaves open the possibility that legislators could have a conflict of interest between their private employment and their legislative duty that would go undetected by citizens.
According to The State, State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, and the House Ethics Commission, the S.C. Ethics Commission and state Attorney General Alan Wilson began talks in July on overhauling the state’s ethics laws. The group hopes to prefile legislation in December, prior to the January start of the legislature’s new session. Among the proposals is a requirement for legislators to disclose private-sector employment.
“The recipe for corruption is concentration of power and secrecy. And we have both in this state to a high degree,” Ashley Landess of the S.C. Policy Council told The State. Her group just released an eight-point plan to increase transparency, including requiring full income disclosure from legislators.
You can find the full story at The State.
New laws and changes in existing ones can dramatically affect the ways that government is accountable to the citizens it is supposed to serve.
Keeping track of those changes -- at both the state and national level -- can be a daunting task. We're adding access to a tool on the State Integrity Investigation website today that makes that task signficantly easier.
With Scout, you can keep track of legislation on subjects that matter to you, create alerts so that you will automatically be notified of changes in the status of a bill and share your searches with others.
Scout was created by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that uses the power of the internet and digital tools to work for government openness and transparency. It tracks legislation on both the state and national level; the service is free.
To use Scout, you access the search box in the right column of this site, below this post. You can type in a word or phrase on any subject (try "intellectual property'' for a test) and Scout will return results on legislation in Congress, speeches in Congress and legislation in the states on that subject. If you enter Scout from a state page on the site, your search will return information specific to that state. You then can create an alert, so that you'll automatically be notified about new developments on that topic. You can learn more on the Scout website here.
We'll be telling you more about Scout, the thinking behind it, how it is being used and how you can make it work for you throughout the week.