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Reform the South Carolina Legislature, Shorten Session, Record Every Vote

August 26, 2010

South Carolina Policy Council


Aug. 26, 2010

Reform the South Carolina Legislature, Shorten Session, Record Every Vote

Legislators control hundreds of appointments to the executive branch of South Carolina’s government, according to a new report by the South Carolina Policy Council.

The S.C. General Assembly makes more than 420 appointments to boards and commissions, more than half the number of the governor.  Of those appointments, 147 are controlled by the state’s four most powerful legislators.

The report also found South Carolina’s legislative session is the longest in the Southeast and the longest in the country, among part-time legislatures. The Policy Council also released its 2010 legislative recorded voting percentages, showing the General Assembly recorded only 25 percent of its votes for the public, the same as in 2009.  The House went down from 31 percent in 2009 to 27 percent this year and the Senate went up from 16 percent to 22 percent.

South Carolina Policy Council President Ashley Landess said the report demonstrates the enormous — and unaccountable — scope of power in the legislative branch of government. The Senate President Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House control appointments to the Judicial Merit Selection Committee, which screens judges voted on by the Legislature. The Chairman of Senate Finance and the Chairman of House Ways and Means both sit on the Budget and Control Board. These are two of the state’s most powerful boards.

“South Carolina’s legislative leaders are among the most powerful politicians in the country and they control state government even though they weren’t elected to statewide office,” said Landess.  “Our legislative session is among the country’s longest, yet lawmakers continue to vote off the record 75 percent of the time.  Citizens ask why their priorities are not addressed in Columbia, and the answer is that the leadership doesn’t want to change the system.”

Sen. Tom Davis from Beaufort said the report demonstrates what he calls “the tyranny of the South Carolina Legislature,” the core problem that prompted him to run for office.  “In my two years as a senator, I have seen the powerful legislators fight attempts to return power to the people,” Davis said.  “One senator sits on the board that runs this state only because he has been in the Senate longer than anyone else.  That makes no sense, and it’s time to change the rules and implement accountability.  The public deserves that, and I’m going to do everything I can to give it to them.”

Rep. Ralph Norman from York said the concentration of power makes it difficult to enact spending reform. “We know taxpayers are fed up with Columbia politics, and they cannot afford the cost of this growing government anymore.  The public deserves legislators who stand up for them, and I am ready to do that,” said Norman. “It won’t be easy to take on a system that exists to protect political power, but we have done it before in this state, and we’ll do it again.”

Landess said the Policy Council will be traveling the state to meet with citizens and raise awareness about the concentration of legislative power and to explore solutions to South Carolina’s outdated system of government.  Landess will be joined by Sen. Davis and Rep. Norman, as well as grassroots leaders.

***Please see PDF attachments.

The South Carolina Policy Council is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that promotes the principles of limited government, free enterprise and individual liberty and responsibility in the state of South Carolina. To learn more about the S.C. Policy Council and read more breaking stories on its news website, The Nerve, visit and  It’s where government gets exposed.

For more information, contact Lauren Leach at the S.C. Policy Council at 803-779-5022, Ext. 119 or

The S.C. Policy Council is an associate member of the S.C. Press Association.

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