Legislative Reform Caucus Formed
Bipartisan Group Unveils Blueprint for Reform

Over two dozen Democratic and Republican senators and house members have formed the state’s first ever Reform Caucus to push for measures to make government more accountable to the people and more efficient for the taxpayers.

The bipartisan lawmakers have agreed on basic reform measures to streamline government and make it more open by using technology.

“We are dedicated to enacting much-needed reforms in the way state government operates,” says Caucus co-chair Senator Ray Cleary, R – Murrells Inlet. “We are saying that good government is not partisan, and reform of an antiquated system is long overdue.”

The Caucus is in the process of developing a Blueprint for Reform, changes it plans to address both this year and next.

“Our goal is to pass as many reforms as possible to make change a reality in Columbia. If we are going to improve South Carolina government, it has to start with those of us in the legislature making reform our top priority,” says Representative Harold Mitchell, D – Spartanburg, one of three Co-Chairs organizing the caucus.

“This list represents a partial list of measures we think are needed,” said Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Oconee and Pickens, the third Co-Chair of the caucus.  “I believe our new Caucus, over time, can transform and overhaul government to save money and make it more efficient and accountable.”

The Blueprint for Reform includes:

Banning Taxpayer-funded Lobbyists.
State agencies which receive public funds should be prohibited from employing lobbyists to influence any state or local governmental bodies.

Requiring full disclosure for all campaign spending by corporate funded non-profits or 527’s.
Corporate-funded, out-of-state special interest groups continue to exploit campaign funding loopholes to exert financial influence on our state government. Any communication from any such group which mentions the name of any candidate within 45 days of any election should be subject to the same disclosure requirements as candidates and committees.

Online Disclosures for all Campaigns, PAC, and Lobbyists.
The public deserves to have more access to campaign finance and lobbying information. All campaigns, PAC’s and lobbyists should file all disclosures and reports online. (NOTE: These requirements now exist for members and candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives.)

Eliminating the “pork” of the Competitive Grant Program with a Local Economic Stimulus Re-Investment Pool.
To insure that government funds are used in the best interest of our state, the current grant program should be eliminated, and all future investments from Local Economic Stimulus Re-Investment Pool should be accompanied by an Economic Impact Estimate to insure effective and efficient use of tax funds.

Public Election of the State Insurance Commissioner.
Affordable, accessible insurance continues to be a major challenge in our state. To make the insurance industry as accountable as possible to South Carolina consumers, we should allow the public to elect the State Insurance Commissioner.

Truth-in-bidding/no change orders.
When operating on taxpayer funds, it is critical to get the highest quality and greatest efficiency out of the fewest dollars. Unfortunately, some companies offer the lowest bid on a project, but then run up costs later with change orders and hidden fees. The State of South Carolina should implement a strong truth-in-bidding policy to reduce costly change orders and keep costs within approved budgets.

Performance Audits to find and eliminate inefficiency and duplication.
Periodic performance audits of each agency and program should be conducted by outside auditors to ensure that legislation is having the intended effect.

Five-year planning to set long-term goals and priorities.
Successful businesses cannot operate without long-term plans; neither should government. We should restructure our budgeting process to recognize agreed upon long-term priorities, and then develop funding strategies to meet those needs. Government cannot and should not be all things to all people. By setting priorities, programs meeting the basic needs of our citizens can be more adequately funded before tax dollars are allocated for less-essential programs. We must make sure that our most important programs are funded adequately first.

Use technology to broadcast meetings of all governing boards and commissions.
While state agency meeting are usually open to the public, it is simply not feasible for most citizens to attend all meetings that are important to them. Just as SC House and Senate sessions are currently broadcast live via internet, state agency meetings and cabinet meetings should be made available to the public in the same way. Many important decisions regarding the disbursement of funds, as well as new rules and regulations, are made by agencies. Internet technology can now allow taxpayers be able to fully be informed of decisions which will affect their lives and pocketbooks.

While this Blueprint of Reform is robust, the Reform Caucus considers this the first step in making giant strides in reforming state government.