Everyone knows that government is corrupt, but you might be surprised to learn just how corrupt it is in South Carolina. There are systemic changes needed, but first, some background.
A Legislature-dominated government
As the saying goes, power corrupts. That’s why we have three branches of government. It’s like a three-legged stool: each leg helps keep the others on balance. Those branches are the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary.
Here in South Carolina, the legislature rides roughshod over everything, the Governor is little better than a figurehead, and the judiciary is beholden to the legislature.
This isn’t overheated political rhetoric. Here are some actual examples:
- The Governor vetoes a bill? No problem. We’ll just override the veto, over and over again.
- A legislative corruption case goes before the SC Supreme Court? Not to worry, those judges know that they’re elected by the Legislature (many of whom are lawyers who also practice before them).
- Want to know what is going on in a government agency? Send a FOIA request - but not to a state legislator. They don’t have to comply.
For this, we can thank South Carolina’s Jim Crow-era 1895 Constitution and over an hundred years of lawmakers who want the good-old-boy system to stay intact and keep “ragheads” out of power.
It doesn’t have to be like this. But, there’s more.
Unaccountable state boards and agencies
A maze of boards and commissions has been created over the years to perform functions that are sometimes legislative in nature and sometimes executive in nature. These boards, since they aren’t elected, aren’t directly accountable to the citizens of South Carolina. For instance:
- The Superintendent of Education vs. the State Board of Education vs. the State Education Oversight Committee vs. the local School District vs. the County School Board (is it any wonder our schools are failing?)
- The SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) vs. the SC Transportation Commission vs. the SC Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB)
- The Department of Administration vs. the Bond Review Authority
This complexity both wastes money and allows our elected officials to shirk responsibility and avoid accountability. For a legislatively-run state, it’s amazing how little power they sometimes seem to have!
Now and then, the cry goes up for “restructuring,” but the result often looks more like a massive game of musical chairs.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Oh, but there’s still more.
The Judicial system
Currently, our judges are elected by the legislature, many of whom are lawyers who practice before those very judges.
Is this a problem? You bet.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, under a grand jury investigation for serious campaign ethics violations, attempted to have Attorney General Wilson thrown off his case. The matter will be ultimately decided by the SC Supreme Court, whose Chief Justice Speaker Harrell actively campaigned for.
Fixing this will likely take a generation or two, but here is a good starting place.
- Judges should either be elected (like Probate Judges) or appointed by the Governor with confirmation by the Senate (like the Federal government). I personally favor letting the voters choose - I trust the people of South Carolina much more than politicians to pick good judges. This is what Texas does, and it seems to work very well for them.
- Consolidate redundant boards, commissions and agencies.
- Eliminate hybrid boards that give undue legislative oversight to executive functions, such as the S.C. Transportation Commission.
- Remove legislators’ FOIA exemption. Lawmakers should have to respond to FOIA requests just as state agencies do.
- Establish term limits and eliminate pensions for state legislators. We should not be rewarding politicians who make a career out of spending your money.
- Shorten the legislative session. I favor the Texas model (a six-month session every other year). It seems to work great for them!
- Close the party primaries. Democrats should not have a say in who the Republican candidates are, and vice versa. This is like letting USC pick Clemson’s football coach! Why do we allow this? Crossover may be a factor in how some corrupt Republicans continue getting elected.
Am I really going to be any different?
It’s a fair question, and one I get a lot. You’ve heard it all before. How do you know I won’t turn out like everyone else does?
For one thing, a lot of candidates don't know what they believe going into office. I do, and have tried to be very open and detailed on all the major issues.
This is not about making money or about a career change for me personally. I have a great career as a computer programmer. Nor is it about belonging to an “elite” group. I hate pretentiousness. I’m not a party animal and you won’t find me hanging out in Columbia drinking with lobbyists.
So why would I run for office? Because I want South Carolina to be the freest and most prosperous state in the nation, and because I believe that I can make a difference, and because my conscience dictates that I try.