So far this year, the House and Senate have both approved important reforms in the way South Carolina is governed. Unfortunately, they have yet to act in concert. As the session enters its final weeks, it’s time to make that happen.
The pending reforms include the creation of a Department of Administration to supplant the state’s arcane Budget and Control Board. Greater accountability requires legislative action.
The B&C Board includes executive and legislative officials who govern a wide range of state business, including human resources, property and fleet management, and information technology. All of those areas should be under the authority of the governor — as they are in virtually every other state. But on the B&C Board, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has the same vote as the state’s chief executive.
The Senate, which stalled on the re-organization proposal the previous two years, surprisingly approved the measure early in the session, but the House has yet to act on it. That the House has endorsed similar bills in previous sessions should mean that its passage is a foregone conclusion. But progress is never certain in the state Legislature, particularly as the session begins to wind down.
The House, however, has approved bills that would further strengthen the Cabinet form of government by having the governor appoint the state superintendent of education and the adjutant general.
In each case, the measure would have to be finally decided by the voters in a statewide referendum, since changes in the constitution are required.
Both sitting officers — Education Superintendent Mick Zais and Adjutant General Robert Livingston — support the measures affecting their respective offices.
On Thursday, Gov. Haley said she is working on behalf of future governors by supporting those two bills, since neither would be effective until 2018 if approved by voters in the next general election.
The reform bills eventually would give South Carolina’s chief executive, who is elected statewide to lead the state, greater scope to do so.
Public education has the largest budget in the state, but under the current system, the governor has virtually no say-so about how it is spent, or the direction that public education takes in South Carolina.
The bill for the adjutant general, who is in charge of the state National Guard and of Emergency Preparedness, includes educational and professional requirements for those who would serve in that position. South Carolina is the only state where the position is elective.
Remarkably, neither chamber has yet to approve a comprehensive ethics bill that would revamp rules related to income disclosure, campaign spending and conflict of interest.
As important, it should provide for the independent investigation and adjudication of ethics complaints against legislators.
Legislative ethics are now handled by committees in House and Senate. Members of the Legislature should be treated the same as every other elected official in the state when it comes to ethics.
The governor’s special committee on ethics provided a comprehensive plan for the Legislature to base the first revision of ethics laws in some 20 years.
“This has the potential to be an amazing legislative session,” Gov. Haley said on Thursday. But only if the Legislature moves on key reform bills.
Delay should not be an option when legislators return to work on Tuesday.
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