— Gov. Nikki Haley spoke Monday to more than 100 members and guests of the East Cooper Republican Club and stressed the importance of a pending bill to create a new Department of Administration.

Her appearance comes as lawmakers return to Columbia this week to tend to unfinished business, including whether they will send a bill to Haley that would dissolve the S.C. Budget and Control Board and put some of its duties under a new administration agency in her Cabinet.

The Department of Administration bill has been one of Haley’s top legislative priorities for the year, but she talked less about that Monday than about another priority, ethics reform.

That reform failed two weeks ago, as this year’s session wound to a close.

“What you saw happen was your Senate kill the ability for them to have to show you who pays them money,” she said. “There’s something very wrong with that. When they refuse to show you who pays them, that’s all the more reason we need to know who pays them.”

Haley praised the work of state Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, for his ethics work. Asked about how S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell acted on ethics reform, Haley replied, “Speaker Harrell was with us there on ethics reform. ... The Senate killed it.”

Haley was supposed to appear at the club’s monthly luncheon meeting in May but canceled at the last minute because her husband Michael received a two-week furlough. He has been deployed to Afghanistan for a year with the S.C. National Guard.

In answering a question about what her administration was doing to help military veterans, Haley said she has talked to S.C. Adjutant General Major Gen. Robert Livingston about the issue. She said the state provides counseling before and after the troops deploy.

“There is a transition of getting used to regular life again,” she said. “It’s a very strange feeling for them. I saw that in Michael just when he came home for two weeks.”

Asked about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing Arizona’s requirement to show proof of citizenship to register to vote, Haley said there’s a difference between that state and South Carolina.

She noted South Carolina hasn’t required such proof to register to vote but has required a photo ID in order to vote. “We all know that on the ID it shows if you’re a citizen or not,” she said. “We won’t have that problem here.”

Haley’s appearance also shows how the club has grown from a small group to a gathering that often attracts more than 100 to its meetings. Club President Mark Smith is vying for the Charleston County GOP Chairmanship at the party’s next meeting on July 8.

Haley is up for re-election next year and will face at least one opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, whom she defeated in 2010.

Sheheen is planning to meet Saturday morning with Berkeley County Democrats during their 9 a.m. meeting at Gilligan’s Restaurant in Moncks Corner. For more information on that event, call 793-9818.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.