- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Elected and appointed public officials in South Carolina would have to report the sources of their private income - but not how much they are paid - under legislation approved Thursday by the Senate.

The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 40-1. In addition to legislators, the bill would include statewide officers, such as the governor, and members of public boards, such as school boards and city and county councils.

Sen. Vincent Sheheen called it “fake” disclosure.

“If the point of this is to disclose to voters so they can make intelligent decisions based on your economic activity, then y’all be real about it,” said Sheheen, D-Camden. “There’s a difference between $100 and $1 million.”

But his attempt to further amend the bill to require officeholders to report how much they make failed on a voice vote.

Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin countered that requiring people to specify an amount would stop many who work for private businesses from seeking public office.

Martin said employers will say, “You go out and tell employees how much I pay you and you won’t work for me anymore.”

“We don’t want to discourage folks from serving in public office,” said Martin, R-Pickens. “If somebody has a job that gives rise to conflict, trust me, it will be known. That’s why you want that type of information out there.”

Another, perfunctory vote is needed to return the amended bill to the House, which approved it 110-0 last year.

If the bill becomes law, private income sources would show up in the annual “statement of economic interest” each officeholder must file by March 30 every year. The statements currently require disclosure on public income sources, such as legislative pay.

The vote comes a week after Gov. Nikki Haley publicly accused her long-time ally, GOP Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, of helping to “kill income disclosures.” As the Senate’s presiding officer, he ruled the disclosure issue, under Senate rules, couldn’t be attached to another bill on ethics investigations.

“People deserve to know who pays their elected officials,” Haley posted on social media, along with a photo of McMaster and the Democratic senator who challenged the amendment. “There is no good excuse for what happened today - and how incredibly sad we are for our state.”

Senators of both parties have defended McMaster’s ruling as proper.

Martin said last week the issue wasn’t dead.

Debate continues Thursday in the Senate on the separate bill regarding who should investigate ethics complaints involving legislators. Many senators don’t like the version that passed the House last year.

Currently, House and Senate ethics committees oversee campaign filings and ethics complaints against their own members, while the State Ethics Commissions has oversight of all other officeholders.

Efforts to change that have failed repeatedly, despite legislators of both chambers and parties saying since 2012 that ethics reform is among their top priorities.

The push for ethics reform was renewed that year after Haley successfully defended herself against allegations that she illegally lobbied for employers while she was a House member and failed to report income sources. Haley agreed with legislators that the laws are too vague, and has since pushed for strengthening and clarifying them.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide