- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A proposal that would transform how ethics cases are initially handled in South Carolina advanced Tuesday with approval from the HouseJudiciary Committee.

The plan to create an independent investigative commission now goes to the full House for consideration, the State newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/1s2S24t ).

The proposal would create a panel of lawmakers, judges and governor’s appointees to conduct secret investigations into allegations against any public official, employee or judge.

That panel would have power to subpoena testimony and documents. If it finds any wrongdoing, the case would become public and be sent to existing ethics panels that police the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Gov. Nikki Haley previously rejected the proposed House compromise, saying the plan needs more involvement from members of the public and leaves lawmakers too much in charge of their own oversight. On Tuesday, Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said the House proposal “does nothing to fix the actual problem - legislators investigating legislators.”

HouseJudiciary Committee chairman Greg Delleney, R-Chester, said that Haley’s insistence on an independent investigative body would doom any chance of reform passing, noting that the Senate, in its version, already has rejected changes to its Senate Ethics Committee or any reduction of its powers.

The independent commission’s publicized findings would not be binding. Power to punish violators would remain with existing House and Senate ethics committees and judiciary and executive review boards.

___

Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com