Palmetto Sunrise: Pressure mounts on ethics debate, roads bill

COLUMBIA -- The Senate is primed to begin debate on a House-approved ethics bill that would lead to significant oversight changes in the General Assembly.

The bill would create an independent panel to lead investigations of potential misdeeds by lawmakers instead of having individual ethics committees for the House and Senate. Legislators would also have to reveal their public and private sourcs of income, though not how much they earned. Currently lawmakers only disclose public income and any money received from lobbyists.

The debate comes amid a foundering investigation of state lawmakers that S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore said, “underscores the need for meaningful ethics reform in South Carolina.”Late Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley continued to pressure state senators on her Facebook page to vote for a clean ethics bill.

“Do you deserve to know who pays your elected officials? Do they need to have independent investigations on ethics issues? Yes,” Haley posted Monday evening. “Tomorrow the Senate votes. We have fought for Ethics Reform for four years. If any of them attempt to amend the bill, they know they are killing Ethics Reform for the people of SC.”

Rocky roads

Even though ethics is on the front burner this week, Haley and others are still keeping the heat on House members to concur on the Senate’s $400 million roads plan. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, also took to social media Monday to reiterate the need for the bill to pass the House in its current form.

“More than three weeks ago, the Senate passed my roads plan that will commit significant money to fixing our roads without raising taxes and will reform the Department of Transportation once and for all,” Grooms said Monday afternoon on Facebook. “If the House does not concur with this plan, the bill will most likely die this year.”

Haley stood by Grooms in a statement from her press secretary Chaney Adams. “Sen. Grooms is exactly right--if the House does not concur with the Senate the roads bill is dead this year. House members have a choice--they can vote to fix our roads, or they can kill two years of work and leave our roads exactly as they are today.”

The House returns from a two-week furlough next week. Before then, the House Transportation Infrastructure and Management Ad Hoc Committee — the panel that wrote the roads bill that has made its way through both chambers — meets Thursday at 11 a.m. The panel will discuss the Senate changes and receive testimony from the Department of Transportation, the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office and the Legislative Audit Council.

The Legislative Audit Council, the General Assembly’s oversight agency, will release its performance audit of the SCDOT today.

Senate District 4 runoff

Voters in parts of Abbeville, Anderson and Greenwood counties will head to the polls today to choose the Republican nominee for the late Sen. Billy O’Dell’s Senate seat. Neither state Rep. Mike Gambrell, R-Honea Path, nor Williamston Town Councilman Rockey Burgess took 50 percent of the vote when they finished first and second, respectively, in the five-way March 22 primary.

Less than 5,000 ballots were cast in the primary, but that doesn’t mean the race isn’t heated.

The winner will face no Democratic opposition on the May 17 special election ballot.

Road to the White House

Democratic and Republican primary voters in Wisconsin head to the polls today to choose their candidate.

Recent poll numbers put frontrunners from both parties on the ropes in the Badger State.

According to the CBS News Battleground Tracker U.S. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz leads among GOP voters with 43 percent while New York businessman Donald Trump trails at 37 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich maintaining at 18 percent.

For Democrats, Wisconsin is dead heat with U.S. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with 49 percent of likely Democratic voters in Wisconsin and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 47 percent.

CNN announced Monday that the two Democrats will face off in Brooklyn debate next Thursday. The April 14 debate will be just five days before the New York primary. Clinton fairs better than Sanders, so far, in New York polls with CBS putting Clinton at 53 percent—a 10-point lead over Sanders.

Today’s headlines:

Texts, emails show AG aide plotted with GOP consultants before news conference over Pascoe (The Post and Courier)

Walter Scott family, community activists call for more change on anniversary of shooting (The Post and Courier)

S.C. Sens. Graham, Scott call on Supreme Court to block Obama immigration orders (The Post and Courier)

Mount Pleasant proposes town employee raises of 4 to 10 percent (The Post and Courier)

Lawmakers pursue bill to ban sexual predators from locksmith industry (The Sun News)

Gambrell, 2 newspapers question Burgess mailer (Index-Journal)

Aiken officers at center of federal lawsuit ‘temporarily reassigned’ pending external review (The Aiken Standard)

S.C. Senate to tackle ethics reform — again (Independent Mail)

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