South Carolina legislators voted to support Governor Nikki Haley’s proposal to end taxpayer funding of lobbyists. The House barely approved a budget amendment Tuesday night by a 61-54 vote that would prevent the state from directly paying lobbyists at colleges and several other state agencies.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-York) supported the vote, saying it was a luxury item in a year the state needed to be cutting back.
Not all of them are bad, but tax dollars shouldn’t go to support the hundreds of people who take part in this. Universities, if they want to hire somebody… let them pay them.
However, Democrats– and some Republicans– opposed the amendment, saying lobbyists play a critical role. Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) said state lobbyists often alert legislators to potential problems with new legislation or quickly answer their questions about an important issue. He chastised the amendment’s supporters on the House floor.
All of you– every single one of you– have utilized the people in that lobby. If you want them to go away, stop needing them. But, don’t vote to cut their salaries and then go ask them to give you information that no one else can provide.
Republican B.R. Skelton (R-Pickens) agreed that lobbyists were being vilified, saying they are reliable and usually very helpful to legislators.
Lobbyists keep us from digging into things. We learn fairly quickly which lobbyists we can trust and which ones we may have a little question about.
Most lobbyists would not be affected, only those who represent the 14 state colleges and 6 agencies that are paid directly through a line item in the General Fund.
Norman said state lobbyists would not go away, as most would just be paid with other money.
(Universities) have got a vested interest in keeping the money coming. They’re always going to provide the information. They’re not going away.
The amendment faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where its support is much less prevalent.
There was some confusion about whether the change would affect Haley’s own aide in the Legislature. None of the agencies that receive lobbying funding are Cabinet-level, but Norman and Rutherford weren’t sure if the Governor’s Office would also be covered.
Haley’s spokesman Rob Godfrey said Haley’s liaison would not be affected.