Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian wants to get things done in the South Carolina State House.
“If you watch the Legislature, they’re not getting anything done,” he said. So the former solicitor and SC Democratic Party Chairperson plans to run for the state Senate seat resigned by Republican John Courson after pleading guilty to a corruption charge.
Harpootlian said the Legislature was not able to pass a budget during its session — the General Assembly’s number-one responsibility. And despite all the outrage and calls for change after SCE&G and Santee Cooper abandoned construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear plant, legislators have not passed any bills proposed to prevent the situation from happening again.
“Nothing got done,” he said. “The Legislature comes to Columbia, based on everything I’ve seen, not to get things done but to socialize. To go to parties. To collect per diems . . . the longer they stay here the more money they make and that is a system which incentivizes them not to get anything done.”
“I’m running for the Senate so we can change the culture at the State House into one that’s focused on accomplishing significant goals in as short a period as possible,” he said. “It will save the taxpayers money, it will keep them more focused.”
Harpootlian wants to improve transparency for legislators by making the Freedom of Information Act apply to them. He said if it covered legislators, the recent corruption scandal that forced Courson to resign would have been avoided.
“We need to make the FOI applicable — the Freedom of Information Act — to the Legislature,” he said. “So the same transparency in terms of communications, of expenditures, of emails, of texts, all that is available to the public.”
“Let’s let the sun shine on the Legislature,” he said.
Harpootlian also said he wants to address what he calls a “culture problem” in the Legislature.
“Folks don’t come to Columbia to do anything,” he said. “They come to Columbia to get re-elected. Once they serve eight years they’re eligible for retirement. We need to do away with that retirement for legislators. They shouldn’t be incentivized to come back or a decision made, vote on a piece of legislation that may not be particularly popular because they’re afraid of losing their seat.”
Harpootlian said part of his plan is to eliminate the per diem legislators receive when they’re in Columbia for the session.
“Why does somebody from Richland County get $200 a day in per diem when they go home every night?” he asked. “The Legislature spends more time feathering their own nest than they do anything to help the rest of the people — the people who sent them there.”
He also has a strategy to use social media and email to target voters and constituents to inform them of how their legislators vote.
“We can go directly to the voters . . . and inform them of what their legislators are doing,” he said.
Harpootlian served in the Richland County Council and was the district solicitor for 12 years.
Filing for a possible Democratic Primary opens June 22nd. So far, no Republicans have announced they’re running for the Senate District 20 seat, which includes parts of Columbia and Richland County.