By Paul Gable
A specially appointed S.C. House Ethics and the Freedom of Information Act Study Committee met again Monday to continue discussion of ethics reform.
Two areas of concentration on the agenda are campaign finance reform and independent investigation of ethics complaints.
Limiting mileage and travel reimbursement and prohibition against immediate family members being hired by a campaign were discussed along with a prohibition against using campaign funds to pay fines, fees or other charges imposed by the ethics commission, ethics committee or criminal court.
Tightening down on uses of campaign funds is an immediate reaction to the problems that caused former Speaker Bobby Harrell to resign his office several months ago.
Reconstituting the State Ethics Commission to expand its authority to receive ethics complaints against all public officials (including legislators and judges) and to investigate those complaints is a key provision the committee is considering.
The current in-house investigation procedure for members of the state legislature and judges amounts to no oversight at all.
If the legislature is really serious about ethics reform, altering the investigatory process is the number one change needed.
Expect the S.C. Senate to fight the independent investigation provisions of the proposed legislation. The Senators really believe they are the font of all wisdom in South Carolina and nobody has a right to oversee or question any of their actions.