The Big Question About the County Sales Tax Referendum

Per the ordinance approved by Greenville County Council, of the total $673,193,630 for four projects only three of the projects are directly related to roads, bridges and highway and road improvements. Those projects total $625,570,000. Only these three projects would be eligible for SCDOT’s priority list.

The Big Question – Does the passage of the referendum in any way reduce the amount of money spent by DOT in Greenville in the future?

For example, if these three projects are on the DOT priority list but are funded by local referendum, will Greenville lose our ranking while other projects in other counties take our place on the DOT list? Will Greenville end up paying for projects, that had we waited, DOT would have completed?

I have asked our House budget committee staff to research this question with SCDOT.

The Chief Justice Race – Rise of the Pawns

For my original February 2014 post concerning the Supreme Court Chief Justice election, please see Game of Pawns.

The State newspaper reported today that I had recently met with state law enforcement officials about this issue. A more accurate statement is that I was contacted by them and was questioned about a possible link between the Chief Justice election and the Greenville Family Court election.

An agent asked a question similar to the one I asked in my post back in February, “Do the Republicans on the Greenville Delegation have so little clout or were our family court candidates – and by extension our delegation –  mere pawns in some perverse version of a Great Judicial Chess Match? ” A good question that needs a detailed answer.

If their investigation reveals that votes were traded that adversely affected the judge’s race for the vacant seat on the Greenville Family Court and tipped the Chief Justice race, then justice has indeed been perverted – in the worst possible way.

I welcome their investigation and the subsequent reporting by the press. Every few years, government requires a good dose of investigative sunshine to kill off the corruption.

 

A Modest Proposal – A Statehouse Monument to the Future

A surprising news story this week was the call by Sen. Vincent Sheheen and Rep. Bakari Sellers, Democrat candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor respectively, for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the Confederate Soldier Monument in front of the Statehouse.

Surprising because I had not noticed the flag contributing to the growing litany of problems that stem from our state government. Maybe unseen rays emit statewide from its flagpole leaving behind a plethora of potholes, criminal indictments, unfair taxes, failed government reforms and a pervading sense of political apathy.

Though I am a Republican, I expected more from my Democrat colleagues. An opportunity to present a viable solution, even one that I might disagree with, should not be wasted. South Carolina needs a healthy debate of 21st century solutions, not political performance art. How disappointing.

Instead of focusing on the historical monuments outside the Statehouse, these candidates and their Republican counterparts should demand the removal of the “monuments” to apathy and self-dealing that currently occupy some seats in the General Assembly.

Our candidates could propose a new monument be raised on the Statehouse grounds – a monument to the future – a monument that lists those members of the General Assembly who voluntarily term-limit themselves (i. e. – get out of the way) for the good of the state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Case of Speaker’s Syndrome

Rep. Jimmy Merrill and Rep. Kenny Bingham announced in a joint letter that they were both withdrawing from the Speaker’s race and praised Rep. Jay Lucas for pursuing needed reform in the House by saying -

The Speaker has enormous power … in fact, too much. By controlling the appointments for committees, boards, commissions and conference committees; determining the legislative ca-lendar, issuing rulings, influencing debate, and approving all of the hiring and firing of House staff; the Speaker can literally control government in the state of South Carolina.

Changing these operating procedures is critical to restoring trust in our government; and it is why we have been urging our colleagues to withhold their commitments for the next Speaker of the House … until now.

After reading articles that confirm a commitment to change by each of the candidates for Speaker, it is time to move forward. For that reason, we are withdrawing our names from consideration and announcing our support for Representative Jay Lucas.

Indeed, Rep. Lucas, acting as temporary Speaker, appeared before the House Rules study committee to make these and other recommendations. These are all very good signs.

But signs do not a pudding make.  The members of the study committee along with Reps. Lucas, Merrill and Bingham each have one vote – just like everybody else. Make no mistake, the House Rules will change only if a majority of the current membership wants them to change. The vote will come during the House organizational session beginning on December 2nd.

A question remains: after years of closely held power by the Speaker that created an expectation of reward or punishment dependent upon how a member voted – a consequence not meted out by the constituents but by the Speaker himself - can the current membership shake off this “Speaker’s Syndrome” and vote themselves freedom?

As an aside, next year marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta which forced King John to relinquish some of his absolute power and set England on course toward a more representative government.

On December 2nd, the SC House will have its chance to add another chapter in that history.

 

Rules Suggestion Box

The rules study committee announced that it would consider rules change ideas submitted via email to Charles Reid, our House Clerk.

The following ideas were submitted by me today. These are, of course, debatable:

As the rules study committee looks at ways to disperse some of the Speaker’s power to a broader number of members, I have the following suggestions:

  • Term limit the Speaker and Committee Chairman concurrently. This should give rise to the Speaker actually presenting members with a legislative plan for his tenure. This would make the Speaker act more like a prime minister with a cabinet and would give a clear direction for the overall House.

 

  • Transfer the Speaker’s ability to assign legislation to the Rules Committee and have the Rules Committee elected by the membership like the Ethics Committee (with the Speaker and Committee Chairs being non-voting ex officio members of the Rules Committee). This would allow the Rules Committee to hear input from the member who has drawn up the legislation prior to determining the bill’s committee assignment. It would also allow the creation of an appeals process if a member’s legislation is never heard by sub-committee.

 

  • Transfer the Speaker’s ability to assign individual members to specific committees to a rotation formula based on seniority and party affiliation. This would ensure mid-level members, 3 to 4 terms, would have some chance to influence legislation in LCI and W&M. It would also provide the other committees with a better knowledge base as older members rotate back to the other 4 standing committees. One way to accomplish this would be to just have a committee assignment term limit. This whole method could be overseen by the Majority and Minority Leaders who themselves are already limited to two terms.

 

Tommy Stringer