Lawmakers, listen up! Here’s how you can fix ethics mess

You knew Cindi would have a good column reacting to the ruling by Judge Manning that she had foreshadowed with dread, and today she did. Read it here.

It’s all good, but on the chance that some of our lawmakers are reading today, I want to call attention to the part in which she explained what they could do to fix the situation. Noting that there’s no guarantee that the Supreme Court will reverse the circuit judge, she urged lawmakers to act today:

The best chance this year for making that fix could come Wednesday. That’s when the House could make final changes to an anemic ethics-reform bill, before it goes to a House-Senate conference committee. This stage is crucial, because it’s the last time legislators can insert new language into the bill by a simple majority; after this, any new language will require two-thirds approval in the House and the Senate.

So, what we need is for someone to propose an amendment to make it clear that ethics violations are crimes and that the attorney general is free to prosecute them. It needs to be a clean amendment — one that doesn’t also grant other forms of immunity, or raise the standard for prosecution, or make any other nefarious changes that reduce the chance that legislators who violate the law will be punished.

There are lots of other shortcomings of that bill, but frankly, no loophole in our ethics law even approaches the significance of the one that Judge Manning just discovered. If the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn his order or the Legislature doesn’t pass the fix, then I’m not sure anything else in the ethics law will really matter very much.

The only people who would vote against such an amendment are those who believe that legislators should remain above the law. No, not even that: It would be those legislators who are so arrogant in their power that they are willing to admit that they believe they are above the law.

Here’s hoping her words have a positive effect.

3 thoughts on “Lawmakers, listen up! Here’s how you can fix ethics mess

  1. Doug Ross

    We’re waiting on you, Vincent Sheheen, to step up as a leader.

    (insert crickets chirping sound effect here)

    Day by day, I take some small pleasure in seeing other people finally come around to what I have known for years – Bobby Harrell has been the heart of problem in this state for years. It wasn’t Mark Sanford or Nikki Haley. They are/were figureheads. The power in this state belongs to a very few legislators elected by a very small fraction of the population over which they rule.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, yeah. Yesterday, I said I would search for anything Sheheen had said about the Harrell situation. Didn’t find anything. Sorry I didn’t get back to you…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    That’s what I said yesterday. The Courts merely interpret the laws that our legislature hands down. If a law is flawed (as this one clearly seems to be) then it’s up the legislature to fix it.

    As an aside, this would be a appropriate moment for me to remind everyone that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have lawyers as legislators. Since lawyers have a particular training in interpreting laws, it’s not a completely horrible idea to involve them in…you know…writing the laws. Just sayin’.

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