In 2012 efforts were begun to revise South Carolina's appallingly weak ethics laws. In 2016 two ethics bills passed, following four years of very active advocacy by the League. One addresses independent investigation of complaints against legislators (H.3184) and the other disclosure of private income sources (H.3186). Both passed at the last minute on June 15, during the day when legislators returned under the sine die resolution to address the Governor's vetoes and conference reports. Both passed in weakened forms, but nevertheless represent major advances over where we were before their passage. Governor Haley recognized the League as an indispensable partner in passing these bills during the signing ceremony, at which League Co-President JoAnne Day spoke. In a very sad follow-up to these successes, Senator Larry Martin, without whom these bills would surely never have passed, was defeated in the primary elections and will not return to the Senate. His departure is an immense loss to the state.
Many other bills were part of the League advocacy efforts in 2016. Many were coalition efforts; widely distributed summaries by environmental, education, and health care groups address those bills in detail. There were major environmental successes, especially passage of a bill that will stabilize the South Carolina shoreline for development purposes. There was a major loss in women's reproductive health, in passage of a ban on abortions after 19 weeks, a bill promoted on the basis of unscientific assertions about the capacity of fetuses to feel pain and on rejection of concern for those who have been raped or are the victims of incest.
What do we expect in 2017? Ethics reform has only been begun. The next step is to address the problem of "dark money," the anonymous funds that go into supposedly independent ads to benefit or attack candidates and parties. We will continue to work with the Close the Gap coalition that is working to expand Medicaid to cover the estimated 123,000 South Carolinians who at present have no access to affordable health insurance. We hope to find opportunities to work on judicial reform, following up on our study several years ago in which we concluded that we need a Judicial Merit Selection Commission that does not include the same legislators who vote on the final candidates. We are working with the Stop the Blank Checks Coalition to reform the regulatory process that allows utilities to pass on all of their cost overruns to consumers, while shareholders receive a 10.5% guaranteed return. We will continue to support the efforts of our allies in the environmental and health communities. We expect to testify when hearings are scheduled on the issue of gun violence, on the basis of the League's strong national position on this issue. There will doubtless be other challenges and opportunities that we don't yet foresee.
With the Palmetto State Teachers' Association Board recently voting in favor, The Collaborative Agenda now has support from SCEA, SCASD, SCPTA, LWVSC, and PSTA. SCASA and SCSBA boards meet in December.
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In 1997 Dr. Mary T. Kelly, a chemist and Natural Resources Director for the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, authored a ground-breaking document "The Aging of the Nuclear State: A Survey of South Carolina's Nuclear Utilities", that described the nuclear industry in South Carolina. Dr. Kelly wanted to uncover the facts and particularly to focus public attention on the leaking tanks of neglected high-level waste at what is now called the Savannah River Site (SRS). The purpose of this updated Issue Brief is to carry forward Mary's legacy to inform the public about current nuclear affairs in South Carolina and increase understanding of this critical public health, environmental and economic issue for our state.