Lawmakers, please pass some real ethics reform
Thursday, February 27, 2014 12:02 AM
In a recent editorial, Charleston's Post & Courier delved into progress made thus far in Columbia since the Legislature reconvened last month. Specifically, the newspaper had its eye on ethics reform.
The newspaper noted since January, more than 24 bills related to ethics were introduced, with two becoming law. Additionally, 15 were sent to House committees, seven to Senate committees.
Noting lawmakers have more than a number of ethics reform bills to contend with, the newspaper also correctly points out that ethics reform should be, but does not appear to be, closer to the top of our lawmakers' to-do list than it seems to be at this point.
Government ethics reform is a much-bandied topic in the halls of Columbia and is so often heard on the campaign trails, as though it is the largest plank in some lawmakers' platforms. However, it seems to be a plank in lawmakers' eyes.
They talk a great deal about the need to ensure our state has ethical government, as though they believe it is at the very foundation of a government serving its citizenry, but then they shuffle legislation to a committee, not in the hopes the legislation will emerge clean and become law, but rather in the hopes it will languish, choke and die.
Republican Sen. Chip Campsen, from Isle of Palms, told the Post & Courier fellow lawmakers are nitpicking, but their nitpicking "is veiled opposition to the whole idea" of instilling ethics, stronger ethics, in state government.
Campsen has been seeking establishment of an independent ethics commission to investigate ethics complaints lodged against members of the state House and Senate. Laudable — and necessary — legislation considering the current setup has House and Senate members investigating their compatriots. Such a structure does very little to quell voters' concerns that lawmakers, rather than punish, will have each other's backs during investigations.
Indeed, much crosses the desks of our lawmakers. There is much to keep them busy while in session, but by the same token lawmakers — many, not all — are rather adept at avoiding the real issues. Think about it: How long has ethics reform been bandied beneath the Statehouse dome? It goes back through several governors' terms. Certainly enough years have passed in which reform with teeth could and should have been implemented.
The honors and accolades lawmakers bestow upon their constituency is frequent and too popular to go away. It is, after all, a good way to ensure votes come Election Day.
Those honors and accolades are well and good, but we'd prefer they get down to some real meaningful business that will truly benefit their constituency — legislation that will help restore trust in our lawmakers and restore a good bit of integrity to our government.