Legislative Report—May 22, 2014

Just two more weeks left in the 2013-2014 Legislative Session. We have spent long hours in session debating bills and voting. The committee work is finished for the session. Anything left in committee is “dead” for this session. I have highlighted several bills that received a great deal of discussion and debate. These are by no means the only ones but ones we have been reporting on during this session.

H. 3945 known as the Ethics Reform Act establishes the SC Commission on Ethics Enforcement and Disclosure, provides for its powers/duties/procedures/jurisdiction and provides penalties for certain violations. This bill was first introduced in April of last year and passed the House in May. The Senate took ten months to pass it and then sent it back to the House with amendments. The House has had it for two months and it was amended to include several things.

The essence of the bi-partisan Ethics Reform Act is that there will be created a separate and independent State Ethics Commission. There will not be any legislators, lobbyist or political donors appointed to the Commission. The Governor will appoint the chairman and one additional member. The State Treasurer, the Comptroller General, the Attorney General, the Adjutant General, the Secretary of State, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the State Superintendent of Education, respectively, shall each appoint one member. All members must be appointed from the state at-large.

This Commission only has the authority to receive and investigate complaints. Adjudication of those complaints will go back to the appropriate enforcement committee.

A person who made a campaign contribution to one of the appointing authorities within the previous four years may not be appointed to the Commission. The law adds language detailing how candidates may reimburse themselves with campaign funds for travel and associated expenses by limiting mileage reimbursement to the IRS established rate, and limiting other travel expenses to either campaign events or events that fall within the scope of the candidates official duties.

No member of the General Assembly or other public official shall be eligible to serve on the State Ethics Commission. All appointments must be based on merit regardless of race, color, creed, or gender and shall strive to assure that the membership of the Commission is representative of all SC citizens.

The legislation requires reporting of the source of any private income by the filer or their immediate family members. It requires the reporting of the specific source of income received from a lobbyist principal, state or local government source, or business regulated by the filer. This will give the public new access to information on the potential conflicts of interest that may arise with public officials.

We call for the elimination of political action committees controlled directly or indirectly by a candidate.

The legislation allows an official’s ethics supervisory committee to request banking records that are required to be maintained by public officials. Public officials must now keep these records for four years (to match the statute of limitations). We changed this so the committees may substantiate information on a candidate’s quarterly disclosures.

The law adds language detailing how candidates may reimburse themselves with campaign funds for travel and associated expenses by limiting mileage reimbursement to the IRS established rate, and limiting other travel expenses to either campaign events or events that fall within the scope of the candidates official duties. (And the law more strictly defines what official duties are.)

The Bill passed unanimously on second reading and third reading and now goes back to the Senate. A conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences between the Senate and House versions. These are much needed updates to our 20-year-old Ethics Act.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 at 7:13 am and is filed under Legislative Sessions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

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