Lawmakers won’t get to pat themselves on the back for ending self-policing this legislative year, which ended at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Ethics has tended to languish in the Legislature as the session wanes each year, for the past four years. But it looked like the ethics bill would clear the General Assembly on the last day of session.
Instead, the bill lacked agreement needed by six lawmakers on a joint committee that worked to iron out both chambers’ differences.
At issue is the timing in which an ethics complaint would be made public.
The conference report on the bill would have required findings to be made public after six of the eight independent ethics commissioners found an official likely violated the law.
But one senator wouldn’t sign the report. Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, worried the timing could “hang” someone if the findings became public too early.
“Once that happens, it’s over, folks,” Malloy said.
With less than an hour left in the day, the Senate voted 37 to 1 to insist that the House agree with the Senate on the timing issue.
“We have given and given and given, but maybe they really want it to die,” said Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, who sat on the joint committee.
“The Senate is on a roll, there’s no question,” said House Speaker, Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville. Lucas criticized the Senate for inaction on a $2.2 billion borrowing package for roads earlier in the week. Both chambers reached agreement on the plan Wednesday.
Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, led the committee. He said he isn’t giving up on ethics reform.
The bill is aimed at ending self-policing among lawmakers. It would make the State Ethics Commission responsible for investigating complaints.
The committee is slated to continue meeting in early June. Lawmakers will reconvene in the middle of the month to take up a limited handful of issues, including the governor’s budget vetoes.
Another ethics bill before a joint House-Senate committee would require lawmakers to disclose private income sources.
It would also require political groups to disclose their donors if the group’s communications mention a candidate by name close to an election. Martin has said he doesn’t support that provision because it’s likely to kill the bill.