Two bills received key committee approval this week, setting up critical floor debates before the “crossover” deadline on May 1.
The House Judiciary Committee approved a substantial ethics reform package that has been the result of months of debate and discussion between Republicans and Democrats, the House and the Senate, and the Governor.
Here are a few highlights of what is included. The bill:
• Abolishes the State Ethics Commission and the House and Senate ethics committees. They will all be replaced by a new commission that has the power to investigate and sanction both executive branch officers and lawmakers.
• Abolishes “Leadership PACs”.
• Requires all lawmakers to disclose all sources of income in an attempt to root out conflicts of interest.
• Requires lobbyists to register if they lobby local governments or school districts.
• Eliminates the “blackout period” right before an election when candidates do not have to disclose donors.
A Judiciary Subcommittee moved the Department of Administration restructuring bill this week. This legislation mirrors the bill approved by the House and Senate last year that eliminates the Budget and Control Board and moves most of its duties directly under the Governor. The Department of Administration legislation is not just a shell game, however, it cuts the size of the government as we eliminate duplicative services.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved our “High Growth Small Business Economic Development Act.” This is a bill we have passed several times that will expand tax credits for the “Angel Investors” who invest money in small, risky companies that have explosive growth potential. This bill strictly limits the types of businesses that qualify for the investment – such as biotech companies or technology companies. Angel Investors were critical in the initial development of some of America’s biggest tech companies. The next company – and our next major employer – could start right here thanks to these investors.
Also this week, the House finalized an incentive package for Boeing that will help fund infrastructure improvements for the company’s planned expansion. We approved it with the stipulation that if Boeing does not live up to the 2,000 jobs it promised to create, the state will be repaid by the company.
Finally, the House overwhelmingly approved a bi-partisan measure to add people who have been deemed mentally unstable by a judge to the federal gun background check registry. This follows the incident in February where a women who had been indicted of a threat to kill President George W. Bush went to Charleston’s Ashley Hall school and attempted to shoot people. The gun did not fire because it was not properly loaded. Our state narrowly avoided a terrible tragedy.
It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at www.tommypope.com.