Lawmakers would disclose more sources of income, face stiffer fines and stop representing clients before some state commissions under new ethics rules suggested by a commission created by Gov. Nikki Haley. The governor's commission was led by former
Attorneys General Henry McMaster and Travis Medlock. The suggestions included:
Lobbyists register with the state Ethics Commission when going before any local government board or council.
Now, they must register only for state government lobbying.
Speeding response to time for Freedom of Information requests and lowering fees.
Stopping legislators from representing clients before state boards and commissions if the lawmaker voted to appoint its members.
Full disclosure of campaign funding & fines for violators
The governor's commission, led by former Attorneys General Henry McMaster and Travis Medlock, recommends SC ethics reforms including:
Raising the amounts of ethics violation fines.
Lawmakers disclose all sources of income--public and private--
and reveal the amounts received from government agencies or businesses with government contracts tied to a public official. They also must disclose income of immediate family members. Legislators only must disclose government income.
More narrowly defining a political committee so more of them will have to file details election spending reports and ending leadership political-action committees that allow unlimited contributions to candidates.
The status of political committees is up in the air after courts shot down the state's definition as overly broad.
Legislative mission: get "voice votes" on the record
One of the worst parts of the political culture in the legislature was the practice of not voting on the record when important pieces of legislation came up. Instead of calling the roll and recording each member's vote, the vast majority of the time the
House and Senate would pass bills by voice vote. That meant legislators would simply shout their votes, and he louder voices prevailed. The taxpayers had no way of knowing who voted for what. Most of the voters weren't even aware this was happening, but
it was a fundamental violation of what we were supposed to be doing, which was representing the people. How could the voters judge us without knowing how we voted? How could we spend the taxpayers' money without being accountable for our choices?
Unlike most states, S.C. had no constitutional or statutory requirement that legislation be passed with a roll-call vote. It was at that point that I discovered my mission: making it possible for the voters to know how their legislators voted.
Real-time online check registers for government spending
Another accountability gospel I preached until I was blue in the face was the need for state and local government to show the taxpayers how their money is being spent through online check registers.
These are online databases--Web sites--that provide real-time government spending information to citizens. I knew most of
South Carolinians were too busy with work and family to go online and check on their government's spending habits, but just knowing the check register was there would keep elected officials on their toes. I compared it to having a teacher in a classroom.
If the teacher is around, students behave. If the teacher leaves, the kids cut up, not because they're bad but because they can. Online check registers keep the teacher in the classroom and make legislators more responsible for how they spend.
I learned in the legislature was that I am for term limits. I didn't think I was when I came in, but by the time I left, I knew there needed to be a limit on the time politicians can spend in government.
I believe that public officials go to Columbia
or Washington with the best of intentions. But along the way people with energy & good ideas got broken. They were told not to step out of line. From business I was used to the idea that you put your most qualified, best people in positions of authority.
Government didn't work that way. The people who got the plum assignments in the legislature were the people who had gone along with what the leadership told them to do. I didn't think that was right, and term limits would fix that. With only a certain
amount of time to spend in government, legislators wouldn't have time to play the leadership's games. They would work harder at leaving a legacy of accomplishment and real change for the people rather than at satisfying the leadership.
Weakened governorship today set up in Reconstruction
I had promised to return government to the people of South Carolina. That meant wholesale reform of a system that was still very much stuck in the 1800s. The structure of South Carolina's government had been created during Reconstruction following the
Civil War. Back then, the (needless to say, white) powers that be had weakened the governorship out of fear that a black man might be elected governor. The result was a system of waste, duplication and lack of accountability that has survived to this day
Source: Can't Is Not an Option, by Gov. Nikki Haley, p.183
, Apr 3, 2012
Fought S.C. House leadership for roll-call voting
Lt. Gov. Bauer attacked me for missing the vote when the bill to require voting on the record had been passed in the house a few months earlier. "With all due respect," he said, directing his remarks to me, "if you're going to push for roll call voting,
you ought to be there to vote on it."
I almost laughed. Then I explained how the leadership had deliberately forced through the vote on an afternoon when they knew I wouldn't be there. Still, I said, "I applaud the general assembly for moving forward
to make all its votes on the record."
I had fought for two-and-a-half years to get to that point. "I lost every position I held in the House in this fight to get legislators to vote on the record--long before there was a gubernatorial campaign," I said
I felt my emotions begin to rise. I'm not going to get caught up in the fact that you're picking on the day that I wasn't there. The two-and-a-half year fight was the reason that the House overwhelmingly voted to have every single vote on the record."
The one thing I wasn't willing to do to keep our legislators happy was play pork-barrel politics. This meant I had to find other ways to build support for my agenda.
Mostly this effort just meant my staff and I had to do a lot of good old, time-consuming work. one legislator desperately wanted a Walmart in his district, but the company didn't seem interested at all.
So we called Walmart and asked the company to take a look and see if it was interested. It sent out a site unit and talked to the legislator.
We didn't spend anybody's money or promise anybody anything. We just put in a little extra effort, and we built a good relationship with that legislator.
Voter ID is a no-brainer to protect election integrity
We passed a voter ID law this year. My thinking on this was pretty straightforward. If you need to show your ID to buy Sudafed or get on an airplane, it's a no-brainer that you should show your ID to protect the integrity of our elections.
The critics said requiring ID would disenfranchise thousands of voters who would have trouble getting identification.
The doomsayers confidently predicted that thousands of people would lose their right to vote because they couldn't get an ID.
So I told the people, "If you are having trouble, give me a call; we'll help you out." I even said I would drive them down to the DMV myself--and I meant it! We ended up driving 25 people to the DMV, all of whom we helped get their ID.
We capped lawsuit damages; next tort reform is loser-pays
Until 2011, South Carolina was the only state in the southeast that did not cap damages on lawsuits. Thanks to the people in this room, that is no longer the case. That was a huge first step. Remember that there is always more to be done on tort reform.
Looking at the states we compete with--the Tennessees, the Alabamas, the Virginias--it would be načve to think they will settle for playing second fiddle to South Carolina in the economic arms race. They will scrap for jobs every bit as hard as we will.
And the greater the protection we give our people and businesses from frivolous lawsuits, the better positioned we will be to capitalize on other assets. The next step in tort reform is a loser-pays system, so that there is a real cost to suits that
waste the time and money of our businesses and our courts, and that our companies understand that South Carolina won't stand for trial lawyers playing games with their bottom line.
Endorsed as commonsense conservative "Mama Grizzly"
In Alaska, the only thing we take more seriously than a grizzly bear is a mama grizzly with cubs to protect. I call the new generation of American women leaders--many of whom I've met on the campaign trail and in the towns and cities of
America--mama grizzlies. These are tough, serious, formidable women like Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Susana Martinez of new Mexico, and Carly Fiorina of California.
These women are at the forefront of a new wave of strong, confident American women who are positively affecting not just the Republican Party, but America itself. They're building businesses, leading men & women in government--and, while they're
at it, raising families.
Nikki Haley has captured the nation's attention as an Indian American woman who's also a pro-family commonsense constitutional conservative eager to take back her country. She's a sister.
Strongly in favor of term limits at all levels of government
Term Limits: I am strongly in favor of term limits at all levels of government. I have introduced legislation to place limits on legislators: 8 years in the House of Representatives or the Senate, no more than 12 years total.