When you mention the word Ethics in South Carolina you can get many different definitions of this word. This year the General Assembly has been fixated on this issue attempting to come up with a solution to improve the state’s ethics laws and how they are enforced.
The best solution came from Senator Larry Martin of Pickens County with S. 1. This bill has been debated and heard for many months. The key provision of this bill is that it would require an independent investigatory board or body to hear ethics charges against our elected officials. In our current quandary, this makes perfect sense and Senator Martin should be applauded in taking this step.
Weak ethics laws weaken the power of the vote. Good government relies on the ability of elected officials to be responsive to the electorate, not financial donations. With the inclusion of an independent body to look at any potential ethics violations is a good way to make our government officials accountable to their constituents and to themselves.
Need for Ethics Reform:
Weak ethics laws weaken the power of the vote. Good government relies on the ability of elected officials to be responsive to the electorate, not financial donations.
At present complaints against senators and representatives are handled by committees made up of fellow legislators who can dismiss complaints in secret without any other input.
The AARP Policy Book states that “Government at all levels should establish and adequately fund independent nonpartisan commissions to create and enforce ethics and lobbying regulations.”
Also, “Public accountability is unattainable unless elected officials and government appointees are committed to implementing and enforcing evenhandedly the laws and regulations for which they are responsible.”
Why not provide a system on which the public can rely? Why are some legislators so reluctant to put initial investigation and assessment of complaints into the hands of an independent body assisted by professional investigators, while they retain final decision-making authority? Why not protect both the public and public officials with this sound approach to ethics enforcement?