Déjà vu for SC General Assembly

By Paul Gable

In November 2014, when everyone was talking about the upcoming SC General Assembly legislative session, three big topics were at the fore, ethics reform, transportation maintenance and repair funding and education funding.

One year later, as preparations are made for the second session of the 121st General Assembly, those three topics are still waiting to be addressed.

Real ethics reform falls into three areas – disclosure of all sources of income for members and their immediate families, disclosure of donor sources in these currently anonymous PACs and an independent process for ethics violation investigations.

Under our current ethics system, the House and Senate have ethics committees that essentially do nothing, and the SC Ethics Commission, which covers all other public officials throughout the state, specializes in collecting fines for late filing of disclosure documents.

All three areas have strong resistance, especially in the Senate, so expect another year where ethics is talked about much and accomplished not at all.

In the area of transportation maintenance and repair or general infrastructure funding, one lesson should have been learned with the floods of October – you can only ignore maintenance and repair of necessary infrastructure for so long.

When old, neglected infrastructure is hit with unusual conditions, it will fail. Some of the flood damage we saw would have happened anyway, but dams failing, bridges collapsing and roads washing out were as much a consequence of neglect as it was from the storm.

School funding, or rather equitable funding for poor, rural school districts is a subject that has been effectively dodged in one way or another since the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision of 1954.

And the SC General Assembly successfully got the SC Supreme Court to back up on a 2014 ruling that gives it no time limit to fix the education funding inequities that exist.

We saw how quickly the SC General Assembly can act when it pulled the Confederate flag down from the statehouse grounds in July.

The legislators and governor have no problem throwing billions of dollars to Boeing, Volvo et al in the name of economic development.

Meanwhile, the basic areas that a good government should address – ethics, infrastructure and education – go ignored.

It’s a great day in South Carolina.

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