Lawmakers, Gov. Nikki Haley push for ethics reform

South Carolina’s Senators are expected to debate an ethics reform bill, which is sitting in a priority slot, this week.

COLUMBIA — Pressure for the Senate to pass a pending ethics reform bill is mounting as a dispute between the attorney general and a special prosecutor appointed to investigate Statehouse corruption continues.

Goose Creek’s Sen. Paul Campbell is among several Republicans calling for advancement of the bill this week. It has been stalled in the Senate since the early weeks of the 2015 legislative session. Campbell stressed it’s time to get it done since all bills that don’t pass during this second half of the two-year session die.

The bill creates an independent panel to lead investigations of potential misdeeds by lawmakers instead of having individual ethics committees for the House and Senate. It also makes changes to a handful of issues, such as having elected officials disclose their private income.

There are some lawmakers who’d rather see the bill modified to address additional concerns. But Campbell said it’s time to approve the bill or it will never get done.

“I’m going to resist making changes to it simply because I don’t want something that won’t make through this year,” Campbell said. “At some point you have to say let’s move forward. Let’s get it done.”

Campbell said last week’s dispute between 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe and Attorney General Alan Wilson over the ongoing corruption probe highlights the need to clarify the state’s ethics laws.

Sen. Larry, Martin, R-Pickens, said he too would push for the bill with no changes to avoid stalling its advancement. The Senate killed Martin’s omnibus ethics reform bill during the 2015 session.

“The question is do we go after what we think we can pass or do we go at the whole issue again and come up empty handed,” Martin said.

Gov. Nikki Haley has also been pushing for the bill’s passing on social media, writing on her Facebook page Monday that if the bill gets amendments they “will kill the bill.”

“Legislators are either for ethics or they are not.” Haley wrote.

To increase its likelihood of passing, the ethics reform bill was assigned to a priority slot earlier this year. As long as the bill doesn’t die from a lack of votes, the only legislation that can advance ahead of the ethics bill is the state’s budget and uncontested measures that don’t require debate.

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 843-708-5891.