In South Carolina’s capital city, major votes are underway on critical issues such as school choice, healthcare, criminal justice, and public spending. As the “ayes” and nays” are counted, the public can follow along in real time to see how each member is voting and know if the bill has passed. Such information is vital to keeping citizens informed and allowing them to hold public officials accountable. However, for most of the state’s history, voting records were not available to the public in South Carolina. In 2008, the South Carolina Policy Council published a report showing that legislative votes were rarely recorded, which would start a years-long battle for reform. Ultimately, it would be the steadfast determination and political skill of a new State Representative and later Gov. Nikki Haley that would help achieve this historic change, bringing long-overdue transparency to state government.
Haley began her political journey in the state Legislature, quickly irritating her colleagues by voting to sustain almost all the governor’s line-item budget vetoes in 2005. “These are taxpayer dollars we’re voting on, and it’s our responsibility to be conservative,” Haley remarked at the time, according to a Post and Courier profile.
Haley’s disgust with the political culture in Columbia that allowed members to vote by voice and avoid accountability would become central in her public service career.
“Instead of calling the roll and recording each member’s vote, the vast majority of the time the House and Senate would pass bills by voice vote,” Haley wrote in her book Can’t is Not an Option. “It was a fundamental violation of what we were supposed to be doing, which was representing the people. How could the voters judge us without knowing how we voted?”
“The final straw for me came in 2008 when I watched as the members of the House voted themselves a retirement pay increase by a voice vote,” Haley continued. “To this day, you can’t find a single legislator who will say he or she voted for the bill. It was at that point that I discovered my mission for my tenure in the South Carolina Legislature: making it possible for the voters to know how their legislators voted. The system was a violation of every notion of accountability I had ever known.”
After the Policy Council revealed that just 5% of floor votes were being recorded, then-Rep. Haley filed legislation to make recorded roll-call votes mandatory for all bills and joint resolutions.
Her fellow Republican lawmakers seethed. She was stripped of her committee assignments and from her role as majority whip, in an attempted public humiliation. Instead, transparency would become a winning issue in Haley’s 2010 bid for the Governor’s Mansion.
Haley was considered a longshot in the 2010 governor’s race. But voters rewarded her promises of a dramatically more open and transparent government with a come-from-behind surprise win.
In a huge win for transparency, Gov. Haley in April of 2011 signed the bill requiring roll call voting.
“This is about accountability in South Carolina,” Haley said at the bill signing. “And this is about the people having the right to know what their elected officials are doing all the time because elected officials work for the people and not the other way around.”
In 2015, Haley and the Policy Council teamed up to blast the Legislature’s effort to weaken and subvert the law. Once again, Haley and transparency won out, with the Legislature backing down.
Haley continued to make government accountability and ethics reform central in her nearly two terms as governor. She did not just champion high ethical stands; she lived by it.
In 2011, Haley created the S.C. Office of Inspector General, tasked with detecting, exposing and preventing fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and misconduct in executive agencies, including the creation of a tipline for state workers to allow for anonymous reporting of government malfeasance. She was ahead of her time, helping, for example, to reform South Carolina’s fragmented approach to cracking down on opioid abuse.
As governor, Haley also established a commission to strengthen state ethics and open records laws. In 2016, Governor Haley ordered all agencies to conduct internal audits.
Haley brought transparency to the state budget in 2016 when she required the creation of annual report on earmark spending, which is when lawmakers send money to an agency without its request, and mandated certain agencies verify that earmark funds benefit the public before funding projects – two efforts supported by the Policy Council.
In her final State-of-the-State address, Haley reflected on her battles for open government. “We brought a level of accountability to state government that never existed before, and that legislators now show their votes on the record, disclose who pays them, and no longer police themselves.”
In making South Carolina government more open, Haley proved fighting for ethical, open, and transparent government can be a political winner. No matter how her bid for the presidency turns out, Haley injecting a need for more government transparency and accountability into the national dialog is a winning move for us all.
Dallas Woodhouse is the South Carolina Policy Council’s executive director.
BUT OTHERS SAY:
CDP Statement on Nikki Haley’s 2024
COLUMBIA - Following Nikki Haley’s entrance into the 2024 GOP primary, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Trav Robertson, Jr. released the following statement:
“With Nikki Haley’s announcement officially kicking off Republicans’ messy 2024 primary race, the rest of America will see just how awful Nikki Haley’s record is for the middle class— including her signing into law an extreme abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, pushing for tax cuts that benefit the ultra wealthy and corporations, and refusing to expand Medicaid to provide affordable health care access for hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians.
“We here in South Carolina saw Nikki Haley create the model for the MAGA agenda that Donald Trump pushed as president, and Haley is sorely mistaken if she thinks South Carolinians haven’t forgotten that record.”
South Carolina Dems Highlight Nikki
Haley’s Praise forTrump with Launch Day
CHARLESTON - Nikki Haley is formally kicking off her presidential campaign in Charleston today (Feb. 15), and the South Carolina Democratic Party will be there to greet her with her own words. Haley, who claimed to have a “great working relationship” with Donald Trump, spent over a year working for and praising the former president and her governorship in South Carolina was a model for the MAGA agenda to come.
You can find the mobile billboard circling the Charleston Visitors Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15.
Get to Know Nikki: Nikki Haley Is Just as
MAGA as the MAGA Right Wing
As former Trump Cabinet member joins
the 2024 field, MoveOn calls out
Nikki Haley’s most MAGA moments
Today (Feb. 15), former Trump administration Cabinet official Nikki Haley announced her run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. As she launches her campaign, Haley is talking about her personal background and attempting to distinguish herself from what promises to be a Republican field that is slanted to the far right.
But a look at the evidence suggests that Nikki Haley is just another MAGA hardliner masquerading as a mainstream Republican to try to appeal to more-moderate primary voters. Here’s a look at just some of Haley’s most defiant “just as MAGA” moments:
...Restricted Women’s Reproductive Rights in South Carolina : In 2016, then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed an extreme piece of legislation that severely restricted women’s access to abortions,
… Denied 300,000 South Carolinians access to Medicaid by refusing to accept federal assistance and expand the program in 2014, making affordable care less accessible to the most vulnerable populations in her state.
“Nikki Haley can try to repackage herself however she wants but she repeatedly failed her constituents as governor and then gave cover and comfort to Donald Trump as a loyal advisor in his Cabinet - all to please the far right MAGA base,” said MoveOn Political Action Executive Director Rahna Epting. “She has shown that she will do anything to follow the MAGA agenda even if it means taking away our personal freedoms and our hard-earned Social Security and Medicare, slashing Medicaid access or weakening our democracy. MoveOn and our millions of members will not relent in calling out Nikki Haley on her ‘just as MAGA’ agenda as she tries to run to the middle.”
Do 2024 Hopefuls Support South Carolina
House Republicans’ Abortion Ban?
COLUMBIA - Despite South Carolina Republicans’ 6-week abortion ban being soundly struck down in court earlier this year, they continue to be relentless in their push for a total abortion ban in the Palmetto state. Today (Feb. 15), South Carolina House Republicans passed a near-total abortion ban with no exceptions for the life of the mother.
Now, with 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls flocking to South Carolina, they each must say whether they support this latest ban.
“South Carolinians deserve to know if the field of extreme MAGA candidates vying to be president support this latest attempt by Republicans in the state to criminalize abortion, even when a mother’s life is at risk,” said South Carolina Democratic Party spokesperson Alyssa Bradley.
Announced and potential 2024 candidates are already racing to see who can embrace the most extreme anti-abortion agenda:
Just a few weeks ago, Donald Trump bragged about his role in putting three Supreme Court justices on the court who all voted to overturn Roe v Wade, saying “no one has ever done more” to ban abortion across the country.
As governor, Nikki Haley signed an extreme bill that restricted abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest.
Sen. Tim Scott is a co-sponsor for several anti-abortion bills that would throw doctors in jail for performing abortions.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken extreme steps to make sure women have zero access to abortion care in Florida; firing a prosecutor who said they wouldn’t pursue criminal charges against abortion seekers or providers and eyeing a potential heartbeat bill that would ban abortions after 6 weeks.
•Gov. Kristi Noem supports her state’s complete abortion ban, and she’s taken it a step further by prosecuting pharmacists who provide abortion-inducing drugs.
•Just this week, Mike Pence said we need to ban abortion pills nationwide, another step in his support to ban abortion nationwide.
•Gov. Glenn Youngkin is adamantly trying to get a 15-week abortion ban through Virginia’s legislature despite continued rejection from lawmakers.
Haley's announcement video is here.
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