The state Senate started the legislative session off right Tuesday by approving a rule that requires more roll-call votes as it conducts the state's business. The Senate action is a welcome recognition that its constituents deserve to know where lawmakers stand on the issues.
The Senate rules have a broader application than those approved by the House before the session began. But House Speaker Bobby Harrell expects the House to revisit the matter and further strengthen its rules for recorded voting, as well.
The new rules will provide for recorded votes on a wide range of issues, including bills that appropriate funds, legislation with a fiscal impact of more than $10,000, conference committee reports, and second readings of contested bills. Frivolous legislation will be exempt from recorded voting.
Gov. Mark Sanford, who publicly campaigned for the reform, described the Senate shift as "the most complete legislative step toward voting transparency we've seen so far."
"We would give the Senate real credit for making this the first order of business in that it will bring more much-needed transparency to the legislative process," he said.
The governor credited Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler for introducing legislation that mirrored a House version that failed to advance in its pre-session rules debate. Changes sought by Sen. Peeler were incorporated into the Senate rules, at the recommendation of Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell, to ensure that they would always apply during parliamentary proceedings.
The South Carolina Policy Council raised the issue last year when its analysis revealed that the state Legislature was near the bottom of the nation in its requirements for roll-call voting. A spokesman for the council praised the Senate action, while citing a few areas that could be approved, such as a requirement to vote on each section of the budget.
The Senate action recognizes that the people of the state have a right to know how their lawmakers vote on the important matters that affect the public's interest. The House should strengthen its roll-call voting requirements accordingly.