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Constituent Update #2 – 2015

It has been slow going in the Senate as significant ethics reform legislation has been actively debated over the first few weeks of the session. This has prevented us from moving much of the early legislation.  I expect that pace to pick up. Here’s some of what we’ve been working on…

Judicial Elections
The South Carolina General Assembly recently met in Joint Session in order to elect judges to the circuit, family, administrative law courts, the court of appeals, as well as trustees to several of South Carolina’s public universities. Most of these races were either uncontested or normal by process standards. However one judicial race stood out.  In the race for an administrative law seat, I was not supportive of either candidate for various reasons, nor were many of my colleagues. An attempt was made to toss out the slate of candidates and begin anew, a procedure I supported.  When that motion failed and we were left only with unsatisfactory candidates, I elected to withhold my vote for either candidate.

Ethics Reform
The Senate can be a frustrating place as rules and procedures often make even the simplest tasks complicated. Last week however that frustration was replaced by shear disappointment. Since last last summer, we have been crafting ethics reform legislation. In addition to income disclosure requirements and new recusal rules, the central component was the creation of an independent investigatory body to investigate charges of ethics violations by members of the General Assembly. After several weeks of debate, an amendment was introduced to the bill that replaced the proposed independent body with a commission whose members, in part, were sitting members of the General Assembly. Clearly that composition is far from an “independent” body and therefore I was forced to first vote against the amendment and then the final bill. The citizens of South Carolina deserve real ethics reform, not window dressing.
South Carolina State University
South Carolina State University (SCSU) has been operating under significant budget deficits for years. These financialproblems are severe and threaten the long term viability of the institution. Many efforts have been made to assist the university in charting a path to solvency. The latest attempt involved the Senate unanimously approving the authorization of mandatory furloughs for up to 7 days. This will in no way solve the financial problems at SCSU but it will be another tool at the disposal of the school’s administration. A House committee has recommended that SCSU close it’s doors for three semesters in order to restructure itself and get on solid financial footing.  At this point, that proposal is not in front of the Senate.
Other Business
The following items were passed by the Senate and have been sent to the House for consideration…
Notice of Meetings – requires public bodies to provide agendas for all regularly scheduled meetings and restricts last minute changes.  Human Trafficking – Grants the State Grand Jury purview over human trafficking crimes. Freedom of Information (FOIA) – makes available the cause and manner of death by the coroner of a person examined by autopsy. The Medical Affairs Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Department of Health and Environmental Control nominee Eleanor Kitzman.
Please reach out to me if you have further questions about these or any other issues.  I am happy to take a deeper dive with you.

And as always, thank you for your support.  It is my pleasure to serve as your Senator!

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