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It’s no longer standing room only at one of state government’s most influential monthly meetings …

Efforts by S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis aimed at increasing citizens’ access to their government scored a victory on Thursday when the S.C. Budget and Control Board (B&CB) agreed to relocate its future meetings to a larger, more accessible venue.

Currently, meetings of this quasi-legislative, quasi-executive entity are held in the Governor’s Conference Room of the Wade Hampton building on the State House grounds. That room is the size of a shoebox, though, and can barely accommodate board members and their staff – let alone the swarm of reporters, lobbyists and bureaucrats who show up for each meeting.

Public input? Please …

Acting on a recommendation made by Loftis in November – shortly after he was elected Treasurer – the B&CB will shift its meetings to Room 101 of the Blatt building, a much larger meeting space on the State House grounds that can accommodate members of the board, their staff and up to 150 visitors. This room is best known for hosting the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings against S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford in 2009.

“The Budget and Control Board is one of the most powerful agencies in the state and it is only right that taxpayers can see the process of how their money is being spent,” Loftis said in a statement. “I thank the Board Members for considering and granting my request made back in November to hold meetings in a venue large enough to accommodate citizens, not just political insiders.”

Loftis also released a pair of photos showing the board’s current meeting space …

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… and its new home …

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Good … of course what ultimately matters isn’t where these jokers meet … it’s how they manage taxpayers’ money, like an estimated $264 million in red ink for the current fiscal year that they refused to address at last month’s meeting.

Still, moving these important meetings to a more open, accessible space is a positive step.

Unfortunately, while Loftis is moving B&CB  in the direction of greater transparency, Gov. Nikki Haley seems to be headed in the opposite direction. Earlier this week, Haley met behind closed doors with a pair of B&CB members – inviting criticism from liberal and conservative opinion leaders.

Also, her newly-appointed (and well-paid) B&CB leaders failed to post notice of the upcoming board meeting until FITS called the matter to their attention in a post published on Wednesday.

They have since posted a notice for the meeting – which will be held at its new location on February 8 at 9:30 a.m. EST – but not an agenda.

For those of you unfamiliar with the way government works (or rather, doesn’t work) in South Carolina, the B&CB is the quasi-executive, quasi-legislative agency that administers the majority of South Carolina’s executive branch functions. It’s a holdover from the state’s 1895 constitution, which was written with the goal of watering down the chief executive’s authority in an effort to preserve the state’s legislative supremacy.

Mission accomplished … although the results of this “legislative tyranny” continue to be disastrous for our state.

Comprised of the governor, State Treasurer, Comptroller General, Senate Finance Chairman and House Ways and Means Chairman, the B&CB is unique to the Palmetto state … and not in a good way. In fact, it’s been referred to repeatedly by its critics as the “five-headed monster,” although in recent years it has acted quite singularly and deliberately on behalf of our state’s corrupt, money-wasting legislative leaders.

And yes, Republicans have held all five seats on the board since 2007.

No matter who the people of the Palmetto state elect to these positions, the current structure serves no one. We elect governors with the expectation that they will govern … but our current structure (including the B&CB) prevents them from doing so.

That’s why we believe that Haley (and all future governors) should be permanently entrusted with control over all of the functions that are currently performed by the Budget and Control Board – which we’ve long argued should be folded into a cabinet-level Department of Administration. Also, we believe that our state elects way too many constitutional officers, which further dilutes the ability of our chief executives to do their jobs.

Until we make these changes, the Palmetto state will continue experiencing the bitter fruit of this total lack of accountability no matter where the B&CB meetings are held.

UPDATE: In writing this story, it occurred to us that both Gov. Haley and Treasurer Loftis campaigned on making government more transparent. Are they living up to those promises? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our comments section below …

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