Ethics bill on `life support` after rising from the legislative grave

Published: Feb. 12, 2015 at 11:28 PM EST|Updated: May. 12, 2016 at 1:21 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Inside the State House, the debate over ethics isn't dead yet, but it has stalled in the Senate.

The massive ethics bill that has been up for consideration in the Senate since the end of January was killed in a vote Wednesday night, but is now considered on hold, or rather, on "life support" in the chamber.

Advocates are worried if this bill doesn't make it, it could kill ethics reform entirely this session.

In the debate over ethics reform, it's all about size. Nineteen ethics bills were proposed in December and have passed in the last month in the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, it's all about one massive bill. The difference between the bill sizes has to do with the chamber size, according to ethics advocates.

Lynn Teague with the League of Women Voters says there are a lot of procedural moves in the senate.

"That allow a few people to control the process to a degree," Teague said.

It also makes it tough for smaller bills, like those 19 passed in the House to pass in the Senate. So far, one proposal has been to work those small bills into the big one.

"Any one of these bills pass, we're a little better than we were the day before," Rep. Tommy Pope said.

That means the massive Senate bill also has to pass. It was voted down because legislators couldn't agree on one aspect of the big bill -- an independent investigation committee.

"Those who voted for the amendment in the committee for the bill to come out all of a sudden turned against it," Rep. Luke Rankin said.

The bill was "reconsidered" by the Senate on Thursday, meaning it's on hold for the next few weeks while the Senate votes on bills that have piled up during the seven days' worth of debate on ethics.

Advocates say the trouble is the problem of one small issue stopping the entire ethics bill will still be there when the Senate picks debate back up.

"People who don't want electioneering restrictions, add to that people who don't want independent investigations, something is in danger" Teague said.

Gov. Nikki Haley also weighed in on the ethics debate with a Facebook post Wednesday night listing the legislators who voted against the bill, and saying those senators oppose independent investigations.

She encouraged her Facebook followers to contact those lawmakers.

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