or Why (Almost) No One Wants to Vote on Ethics after Two Years in the Making
1. An electronic game in which the player uses a rabbit to collect carrots.
2. A rhetorical device used by legislators to stall the passage of a bill. May refer to government grabbing money every chance it gets.
It was around 3:30 p.m. when the vote came Thursday—adoption of a conference report on a tax bill by a vote of 35 to 5. It was also the last day of the session and the last chance at ethics reform for the year.
Sen. Kevin Bryant had held the floor for more than five hours trying to delay passage of a bill to let counties hold a ballot referendum for voters to decide whether to approve an up to two percent sales tax. The tax, intended for capital improvements in schools, was a measure the Anderson Republican had opposed all year. He referred to government as a grabbit rabbit, a term that had reporters on social media hopping and that referred to a tendency to take money every chance the government gets.
Democrats joined with libertarian-leaning Republicans to continue the debate. With only 90 minutes remaining of a two-year legislative session, Bryant’s filibuster helped run out the clock on the ethics bill, the pièce de résistance of the day—arguably of the year. Supporters of the ethics bill finally forced a vote on the tax proposal after multiple attempts to end debate, moving to ethics reform.
“This is a good bill,” said Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill. He and other supporters said the bill wasn’t perfect, but they didn’t want to waste two years worth of work.
Lawmakers reached a compromise earlier this month, but Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, held up passage two weeks ago so more people would have a chance to read what was in the bill. Now lawmakers will have to start from scratch next year on ethics reform.
The bill, which included provisions for income disclosure, failed to address independent oversight—a sticking point for critics.
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, worried the bill didn’t go far enough because it let the House and Senate continue to police their own members. “Let’s not pretend that what’s being left out here is inconsequential,” he said.
Davis and Bright held the floor for the last hour of session, killing the bill for the year.
Drawing parallels to the government restructuring bill that passed earlier this year, Davis said declaring victory made substantive future reform unlikely. The restructuring bill abolished the five-member Budget and Control Board, replacing it with a body of an identical leadership structure and leaving many of its responsibilities in place.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley took to Twitter two weeks ago, urging lawmakers to pass the bill. Davis quoted from Haley’s January State of the State speech, in which she urged independent oversight as part of the reform.