By Paul Gable
A S.C. House ad hoc committee on ethics reform held its first meeting last week.
Acting S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas has made ethics reform the number one priority for the General Assembly in the upcoming legislative session beginning January 2015.
Lucas wants pre-filed bills on ethics reform ready to go at the beginning of the session.
Should we get excited and think ethics reform, in this historically ethically challenged state, is near?
Ethics reform was supposedly a top priority during last year’s session and ethics reform legislation was actually passed by the House, but killed by the Senate.
However, far from tightening ethics laws, the bill would have loosened them, essentially making all ethics violations civil, not criminal, violations and allowing the House and Senate ethics committees to remain in place to investigate their own members.
A parallel attempt to make state legislators subject to Freedom of Information Act requirements was also quickly disposed of.
And, come next month, we are going to return virtually all of the incumbent legislators to new terms in the General Assembly.
To expect ethics reform from this group, regardless of what you may hear in public statements, only confirms Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Ethics reform must begin at the ballot box and South Carolina voters, unfortunately, are conditioned to vote for incumbents. In their defense, in a one-party state the only alternative is, often, not voting at all.
The disconnect between the citizens of South Carolina and their legislators may be best demonstrated by the following two comments:
“At the end of the day, true ethics reform should ensure that all elected officials are held accountable and instill an unshakable public trust in our system of government.” Jay Lucas, Acting S.C. House Speaker.
“We are dealing with corrupt lawless rogues with swollen heads. They lie to get elected, then, their dark sides come out.” Voter comment on a S.C. political blog.
That’s quite a divide to overcome.