State Capital Report: Election Reform

By Representative Jackie Hayes
February 21, 2013

The House spent most of Thursday’s session discussing  election reform legislation (H 3298)  that  would clarify  the process for filing for candidacy and running for office in our state.  It aims to correct the problems that prompted the Supreme Court to remove some 250 candidates from the primary ballot last June for improperly filed financial forms.
However, members voted to postpone debate on the bill until next week  because of a disagreement over provisions that would require a party official to sign off on a candidate’s intention to file for office.   I voted for  an amendment that would  have deleted the need for a party official’s signature, but it was defeated in a close 56-57 vote.  I believe that requiring a party official to sign off on a candidate’s paperwork is an added layer of bureaucracy, gives the party too much control over who runs for office, and poses an impediment to those who want to run for office.
Under the legislation, incumbents running for re-election would have the same requirements as other candidates running for that seat.  Financial forms would still be needed,  but a candidate could not be kept off the ballot for failing to file them on time.  Candidates would pay their fees and file their paperwork  at the county elections commission after obtaining the signature of a party official.
Chief Justice Jean Toal  addressed the General Assembly on Wednesday, informing us about plans to bring an e-court system to our state.  The public would be able to file and view documents online free of charge.  Unlike the federal electronic court system, a password would not be required.  She also said that technology and cyber-security has long been her focus, and that the court system is secure from hackers.
Last week  General Abraham Turner, the executive director of the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW), submitted his resignation effective March 1.  In my last Capitol Report, I expressed my concerns about the agency’s plans to eliminate staff handling unemployment claims at offices  in many rural counties, including Dillon County, where unemployment is high.   
The agency has also been criticized for laying off  75  employees while simultaneously giving large raises to others.  The new interim director will be John Finan.
A bipartisan bill (H 3560) was introduced this week that would make it harder for individuals legally classified as mentally ill from buying guns.  Specifically, the legislation would add two new categories of people who could not possess or buy a firearm:  anyone found by the courts to be mentally incapacitated and anyone  involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Once the person has recovered, he or she could file a petition to reinstate rights to own a gun.  
The State Law Enforcement Division would be directed to compile a database of names to submit to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. South Carolina is one of many states that has  not been submitting such information to the national criminal database.
The House unanimously approved legislation (S 165) that would extend the  hunting season of alligators on private land.   The current season is from  September 1 through October 15.  
The bill would extend the season from September 1 through May 31.  Another bill  (S  91)  we approved would allow baiting in hunting deer in Game Zones 1 and 2, which includes Dillon County.
Currently these zones are allowed to hunt deer but not to put out bait, such as corn, to attract the deer.  Other  game zones are already allowed to bait in hunting deer.
I spent many long hours this week in meetings with members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with crafting a budget for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.  We are still going over the details and expect to have a printed appropriations bill on members’ desks the first week in March.
The Legislature meets in Columbia on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from January to mid-June.   If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at  803-734-3099, at 333D Blatt Building, P.O. Box 11867, Columbia, S.C. 29211 or call me at home at  843-774-6125, at 240 Bermuda Road, Dillon, S.C. 29536.   My e-mail address is

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