- Associated Press - Saturday, December 15, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A retiring legislator appears to be benefiting from a last minute change to a bill concerning the state agency he has been offered a job as director.

Republican Rep. Mike Pitts of Laurens said last weekend he planned to leave the Statehouse at the beginning of the year to run the state Conservation Bank.

The appointment to the bank which uses public money to buy land for public use and conservation, sometimes working with private owners, would require state Senate approval.

When the Legislature debated a bill reauthorizing the bank earlier this year, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported it contained a proposal forcing legislators to wait a year before taking over the agency. That proposal was deleted in the final version of the bill.

Pitts told the newspaper he sees no conflict in taking the job even though he was chairman of a budget subcommittee that directly handled funding for the bank.

South Carolina lawmakers already have waiting periods for some positions. Legislators have to wait a year after leaving office to become a lobbyist or be elected a judge. They have to wait four years before being elected to the Public Service Commission.

State Sen. Chip Campsen played a key part in passing the bill and said he thinks the one-year waiting period was put in the bill because senators knew Pitts was interested in the director job and wanted a bargaining chip.

Pitts is a “person of great integrity and honesty” and his knowledge of the Conservation Bank as a legislator makes him more qualified for the job, the Republican from the Isle of Palms said.

Environmental groups also are backing Pitts.

“He has always been a good supporter of the bank,” said Mark Robertson, South Carolina director of the Nature Conservancy. “He’s definitely a conservationist and he has great appreciation for the outdoors.”

Pitts‘ new job could also boost his retirement pay. If he serves as director for at least three years, his state-funded pension will be set at a percentage of the director’s salary, rather than as a percentage of his much lower salary as a part-time lawmaker, $10,400.

The previous director made $97,000 a year.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com


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