In 2008 the South Carolina Policy Council wanted to know why state spending was so high, so we started to look at how lawmakers were voting. We found there was no record of votes – and so we hand-counted thousands of pages of House and Senate journals to find that in 2008 lawmakers recorded their votes only 8 percent of the time.
Every lawmaker in South Carolina seems to support roll call voting. And for good reason. Citizens have a fundamental right to know how their representatives are voting. Still, legislators continue to voice objections to roll call voting and the Senate has yet to pass a statutory roll call voting requirement.
In 2009 and 2010, the House and Senate combined only recorded 25 percent of their votes. Significant laws that didn’t receive a recorded vote in the Senate range from multimillion dollar economic incentives deals to the creation of new state agencies to the imposition of new fees and regulatory burdens. Meanwhile, South Carolina has one of highest unemployment rates in the nation, virtually no economic growth over the past 10 years, and an educational system that is failing our state’s children. You be the judge as to whether these laws were important enough to receive a roll call vote.
In 2009 the General Assembly passed legislation (H 3352) requiring all school districts to post a transaction register online, as well as a copy of the district’s monthly credit card statement. Initially, school districts had until October 2009 to comply with the new law, but the deadline was extended to June 30, 2010, after some districts asked for more time.
This memorandum addresses, specifically, whether S.C. House Bill H. 3047 (hereinafter “H 3047”) is constitutional and, more generally, whether the changes to the method of recording votes in both houses of the South Carolina General Assembly are constitutional.
It goes without saying our political leaders should treat public tax dollars with the same care and consideration they would their own finances. This maxim has never been more necessary when we consider the state’s recent experiment with government-driven economic development. As illustrated by the Boeing incentives package, there is little transparency regarding the financial details of these agreements, as well as the process by which lawmakers approve such incentives.
The Best & Worst to Come: A Review of Transparency Policy for 2009-2010 As we review the best and worst transparency legislation of 2009, it’s also time to begin to consider what ideas are likely to resurface during the 2010 session. The Policy Council is a longtime advocate of transparency, calling repeatedly for such reforms as recorded …