Senate moves income disclosure bill into priority spot

The South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith).

COLUMBIA — Senators appeared to change their strategy for approving ethics reform to a two-prong approach by moving a bill that would require lawmakers to disclose private sources of income into a priority spot for floor debate.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, asked senators Tuesday to move the bill to the special order calendar as a way to bring income disclosures back into the ethics reform discussion.

Martin tried and failed last week to amend another ethics bill — already in a priority position — that would establish an independent panel to investigate lawmakers accused of potential wrongdoing. The amendment would have included a requirement that legislators disclose outside sources of income.

The amendment had been ruled out of order last Thursday due to a technicality.

“I am trying to get back to where we were last week, which is independent investigations and income disclosure,” Martin said. “Nothing more.”

The ruling last week by Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster led to a rift with Gov. Nikki Haley, with Haley accusing McMaster of killing the issue of income disclosure.

For four years, those seeking ethics reform have sought to implement reforms addressing independent investigations, income disclosure and disclosure of funds spent by outside groups on campaign materials — commonly referred to as “dark money.” There is a separate bill pending in the Senate that addresses third-party campaign spending.

Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said he intends to address the issue of dark money this session.

“We, for the good of our state, have got to put a stop to this rather than let it continue,” Leatherman said. “I would hope that we senators would come to our senses and say no longer, no longer will the state of South Carolina allow outside money to come in here to try to influence the outcome of our elections.”

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.