The Speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives and Majority Leader of the State Senate have joined fiscal conservative reformers in supporting a key transparency initiative – the creation of an online checkbook that would track all taxpayer expenditures over $100.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler have signed on as co-sponsors of new legislation being pushed by, among others, State Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. Nikki Haley – arguably the two highest-profile reformers in Columbia.
It would certainly appear to be a rare meeting of the minds between the GOP’s two warring factions on a high-profile issue, although it remains to be seen whether Harrell in particular will use his influence in the House to ensure the bill’s passage.
The legislation, which can be viewed here, is called the “South Carolina Truth in Spending Act.”
Among other stipulations, it would require that all state agencies and local governments in South Carolina “maintain a transaction register that includes a complete record of all funds expended over one hundred dollars, from whatever source for whatever purpose.”
Even better, the legislation would mandate that “the register must be prominently posted on the Internet website maintained by the entity and made available for public viewing and downloading.”
A separate provision of the bill requires that state agencies and local governments also post their credit card statements online.
“When we first brought this idea to people’s attention last year, we were encouraged by the initial positive feedback,” said S.C. Policy Council President Ashley Landess, whose organization has been leading the fight for greater government transparency and accountability at the state and local level. “Unfortunately, the politicians turned around and consulted with their favorite government lobbyists to kill the bill on three separate occasions.”
In fact, FITS readers may remember that Republican Senator Larry Martin was quite instrumental in defeating the proposal last year.
Landess sounded a tone of cautious optimism this go-round, however.
“I’m glad to see people responding, and I would absolutely applaud guys like Kevin Bryant, Larry Grooms and Garry Smith for putting this forward,” Landess said. “Hopefully we’ll get more than talk this time from leadership.”
Landess also specifically praised S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom for “walking the walk” when it comes to transparency reform.
Eckstrom – whose office has made an aggressive new push to open up state and local spending in South Carolina – said the new bill was “vital in restoring the confidence that many people have lost in government.”
“In these uncertain times, being transparent with government spending is more important than ever,” he said. “Taxpayers want and deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent, and they have an absolute right to easy and timely access to that information. I applaud those legislators who are publicly supporting this historic initiative, and I urge others to rally behind it.”
In addition to Peeler and Davis, the Senate version of the proposal is sponsored by Larry Grooms, Kevin Bryant, Mike Rose, Phil Shoopman, Shane Massey and Lee Bright.
In addition to Haley and Harrell, the House version of the proposal is sponsored by Garry Smith, Mike Pitts, Nathan Ballentine, Eric Bedingfield, Joey Millwood, Jeff Duncan, Roland Smith, Dan Hamilton, Don Bowen, Tommy Stringer, Ted Pitts, Kenny Bingham, Harry Cato, Derham Cole, Joe Daning, Mike Gambrell, Bill Herbkersman, Jenny Horne, Herb Kirsh, Lanny Littlejohn, Tim Scott, Jim Stewart, Michael Thompson, Seth Whipper, Robert Williams, Mark Willis, Bill Wylie, Annette Young and Thomas Young.
We’ll be sure to keep you up to speed on any developments as this bill makes its way through the legislative process …