If the ongoing Statehouse probe and indictments, and this year’s failed nuclear project in Jenkinsville prove anything it’s this—the old way of doing politics in South Carolina doesn’t work.
All the well-intentioned laws, money, power, and influence concentrated in the Capital haven’t protected the people, who need government with stricter limits on state representatives and stronger local governments in lieu of a strong state—
A state that brought us a 2007 law that empowered utilities to finance failed projects ahead of completion on the backs of ratepayers.
A state that bends under public pressure every decade or so to bring marginal ethics reforms that do little to stop unethical or questionable behavior.
A state that routinely makes sweeping decisions that significantly impact our everyday lives without fully understanding the consequences.
If the string of Statehouse indictments from 2014 to today against former Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell, suspended Republican Sen. John Courson of Columbia, and others have merit, then only two conclusions are possible—
In maintaining their innocence, as many have, either the objects the sting aren’t being forthcoming, or the line between what’s right and wrong seems so fuzzy that they believe they are innocent.All the well-intentioned laws, money, power, and influence concentrated in the Capital haven't protected the people Click To Tweet
Harrell pleaded guilty in October 2014 to misusing campaign funds, but was unrepentant in a public statement.
If we want politicians who are above reproach, we have to prevent them from glutting on power. As the 1990s Statehouse sting and the current sting demonstrate, we shouldn’t expect irreproachable behavior to flow from a position of power.
These problems reflect a broken system that won’t be fixed by electing mere replacements from either major party. Instead, they should spark a conversation about the proper role and scope of state government.
Counties perennially lodge complaints over unfunded state-issued mandates resulting from the state’s underfunding of the local government fund. For instance, many local government officials decried a fix to the state retirement system, which covers local government employees and police officers, to raise taxpayer-funded employer contributions by two percentage points this year. Many local governments are raising taxes to fund the mandate.
The General Assembly also passed into law 126 bills during the last legislative session, which ended in May. Of that legislation, several bills dealt with restructuring local school boards.
But what if local governments functioned more independently instead of being an underfunded extension of state government?
What if the state quit hamstringing small business owners with layers of bureaucracy by simplifying our cumbersome tax code?
If we want to live as a prosperous citizenry, we have to get out from under layers of government that undermine our prosperity.
No silver bullet to the problems of waste and abuse in government exists. But term limits are a good start.
Shortening—again—the legislative session is another backstop to bad or needless legislation.
Let’s consider abolishing the underfunded local government fund and its unmeetable demands on local governments, while we’re at it.
We can’t drain the so-called swamp in Columbia—or Washington, or anywhere else, for that matter—without changing the environment. Because if there’s one thing human nature loves it’s a boggy environment, where it can easily grow drunk on power.