SC Senate version of ethics-reform bill fails to regulate local government lobbying

By   /   May 15, 2013  /   No Comments

By Curt Olson │ The Nerve

COLUMBIA — The Senate Judiciary Committee has scrubbed its version of an ethics-reform bill of any mention of regulating lobbyists at the local government level in South Carolina.

Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that approved the amended bill (H. 3945) late last week, told The Nerve Tuesday he agreed to remove the provision from the legislation because of a separate bill (S. 601) he sponsored.

That bill, which passed the Senate by a May 1 crossover deadline and is now before the House Judiciary Committee, regulates people lobbying “political subdivisions,” such as cities, towns, counties, school districts and special districts. In defining lobbyists for political subdivisions of the state, it would require those lobbyists to register with the State Ethics Commission, as those who lobby state lawmakers currently do.

Thurmond said “millions and billions of dollars” are spent by local governments, adding, “I’d like the light to shine on that (local government lobbying).”

“If we’re creating an opportunity for people to trust government officials, we have to do things differently,” he said.

The freshman senator said local lobbying covers a variety of projects, including economic development. As the House bill was being debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, some groups argued that local lobbying for economic development projects should be kept secret for competitive reasons, he said.