COMMITTEE VOTES ARE TOO OFTEN ANONYMOUS
Each new session of the Legislature begins with a hue and cry to end corruption. This time the soon-to-be new Speaker of the House, Jay Lucas from Darlington County, appears to be leading the charge for change. As Lucas said to the new rules committee, many of these proposals to revamp House rules “are just common courtesy or common sense.” Lucas may be right. But at least one proposed change in House rules is a quintessential requirement of a free people – the right of citizens to know how their elected representatives vote while making laws.
One hopes the new House Rules Ad-Hoc Committee will present this momentous rule change as one of its proposals to the full House for a vote. In testimony before the new committee, the director of research for the South Carolina Policy Council, Jamie Murguia, called for the most fundamental change in the Legislature since 2011 when lawmakers – under pressure from grassroots activists – passed a statute requiring recorded votes on the floor of the Senate and House.
In her testimony, Murguia proposed that the same principle be applied at the committee level. The simple idea here is that all votes in all committees and subcommittees be recorded and made public on the internet. Will the House Rules Ad-Hoc Committee recommend to the full House this basic requirement for a free republic? If the committee does so, will the entire house membership vote by a simple majority to accept the recommendation of the House Rules Ad-Hoc Committee to record all votes in all committees?
The Advocacy Center of the Greenville Tea Party will be working with the House Rules Ad-Hoc Committee members, the House leadership, and all members to open up the lawmaking process to the public. We will continue the initiative that we began in 2012 to make all committee votes public.
The Advocacy Center will help the rules committee to make its good work known to the public. We will also give each member of the South Carolina House the opportunity to make the public aware of where he or she stands on the following question:
Do you support recording every individual committee member’s votes in all House committees and subcommittee on every matter that may become a part of a statute, and making the vote tallies available to the public?
Yes________ No_______ Not Sure_______ Comments_____________________
Here’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, and here’s what the public should understand: (1) Recording votes (or failing to record votes) in legislative committees affects the foundational relationship between the individual and his government. And (2) laws made without the knowledge and oversight of the public are an insult to the lawmaker’s constituents and a breach of the lawmaker’s sworn promise to protect the Constitution.
Public trust in the Legislature is justifiably at an all time low. The only means for the Legislature to regain respect is to put transparency and accountability back into every institution and organization in the entire legislative branch. Recording committee votes is a way to begin.
Lawmakers’ convenience and protection are not sufficient reasons to place our constitutional republic at risk.
Don Rogers, a resident of Greenville, has advocated for mandatory recorded committee votes for several years.