SC House Considering Rules Changes After Speaker's Indictment

After Speaker of the South Carolina House Bobby Harrell was suspended because of his indictment on charges including using campaign money for personal use, House members started talking about changing the rules so future speakers won't have as much power.

Acting speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, created an ad hoc rules committee to discuss possible changes, and it met for the first time Tuesday.

"There is and has been a universal theme among many House members, Democrat and Republican, that they're dissatisfied with the rules and the operations of the House. There needs to be some change," Lucas told the 17-member committee.

He went through a list of possible changes, including term limits on the speaker. "Change can be a good thing. When new blood comes, fresh ideas come. With fresh ideas often come solutions to problems, both old and new. Ideas and progress can stagnate and cease if leadership becomes too entrenched," he said.

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina also supports term limits for the speaker and committee chairmen. League vice president Lynn Teague told the committee, "This isn't just about concentration of power, although that is a central issue. It's also about innovation, creative thinking, freshness, bringing everybody's best work to the table."

The South Carolina Policy Council's research director said it's against term limits for the speaker, though, saying House members already have the power to make a change every two years when they elect a speaker.

Jamie Murguia told the committee there are other ways to improve House rules. "We would ask that you record your votes in committee. Roll call votes are the only way for members of the public to hold their lawmaker accountable for policy decisions," she said.

Common Cause of South Carolina director John Crangle says the House also needs to ban leadership PACs that hand out campaign cash to House members. He says the proposed rules changes are important for voters.

"The people at home want public officials who have integrity and are up here to do the public business and do it as well as they can. They don't want public officials who are up here running a shakedown operation or trying to live off of politics or convert public office to personal gain," he says.

The committee plans to meet again. It's expected to make recommendations to the full House to vote on, likely when the House meets in an organizational session after the November elections.


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