A Major Transparency Win For South Carolina
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.
Some of the state’s most powerful legislators publically declared that transparency was a “fad,” that roll-call voting was a “waste of time,” and that the people of South Carolina “didn’t care” about it.
But the people of South Carolina do care about it – a fact made crystal clear when I flew around the state with Governor Sanford, then-Rep. Nikki Haley and Rep. Nathan Ballentine to promote the research, sparking a massive grassroots campaign for recorded legislative votes.
In 2010, and again in 2011, the House unanimously passed a bill to record their votes, but the bill stalled in the Senate.
With the help of Policy Council members, grassroots activists, and State House reformers, our efforts have finally paid off. On March 17, a bill requiring both the House and Senate to record votes for every bill that has the force of law passed the South Carolina Senate 33 to 11. South Carolina taxpayers will now have a tool with which to hold their lawmakers accountable.
The fight for legislative transparency doesn’t end here – it is actually just beginning. The legislature still provides hundreds of millions in corporate welfare, and taxpayers are effectively barred from finding out what those “incentives” are and why they were given. But last week was a major victory for limited government and transparency – and it was evidence of what can happen (and what will happen) when the people make their voices heard in Columbia.
Thank you again for all you do. Without you, democracy doesn’t work – but because of you, it did.
E. Ashley Landess