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SC Lawmakers Could Limit Future Speakers’ Power

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REFORMERS SEE OPENING IN WAKE OF SCANDAL …

Future Speakers of the South Carolina House of Representatives could see their power curtailed if a bipartisan group of state lawmakers is successful in advancing a series of internal reforms.

According to Andy Brack of The Statehouse Report , “a bipartisan group of House members wants to change its chamber’s rules to reshape how members wield power.”

Brack quotes S.C. Reps. Rick Quinn, James Smith and Jenny Horne as having a hand in the effort to change the rules – which would presumably be adopted at an organizational session held after the November elections.

“There’s too much power in one person,” Horne told Brack.

We agree …

The nascent reform effort – which is also said to include Reps. Eric Bedingfield, Beth Bernstein and Gary Simrill – is a direct result of this week’s indictment of powerful S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell on corruption charges.  Harrell has suspended himself from office, and his political future is uncertain.

In fact the race to replace him is already afoot … with several of the candidates for the post embracing the push for internal reform.

At the top of the list of reforms mentioned in Brack’s report is term limits for legislative leadership positions.  This website has consistently supported term limits for elected offices, but we haven’t been as aggressive in pushing term limits for leadership posts within the legislature.

That’s a mistake on our part.

Wait … what? 

Yeah, you read that right: We were wrong.  Term-limiting elected officials isn’t the best way to eliminate corruption – it’s much smarter to limit the amount of time individual lawmakers are allowed to serve in leadership positions.  For starters, we’d recommend no one serve as Speaker – or as a committee chairman – for more than four years at a time.

Other reforms envisioned by this group of legislators?  Splitting the House’s powerful ways and means committee in two (one committee to draft the budget, another to address tax policy), permitting committees (rather than the Speaker’s office) to make hiring decisions, eliminating political action committees affiliated with legislative leaders (a.k.a. “Leadership PACs” like the one that got Harrell into trouble) and creating “procedural transparency” regarding certain pieces of legislation that are snuck onto the House calendar (another area where Harrell has been a naughty boy).

Interestingly, a source close to Harrell told FITS that the current Speaker – whose scandal has been the impetus for the proposed changes – actually supports the vast majority of the ideas being floated.

“We haven’t seen all the details but a lot of these reforms he’s already on board with and when he’s cleared his name he’ll be leading the fight to implement them,” the source said.

Anyway, to read more on the proposed reforms check out Brack’s website …