Sumter Sen. McElveen's bill would require lawmakers to 'cool off'

Law would mandate period of time before legislators can take some state jobs

BY RACHEL PITTMAN
rachel@theitem.com
Posted 3/12/19

State Sens. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, and Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require legislators to "cool off" after leaving their elected positions and before taking some state jobs.

"This bill proposes a …

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Sumter Sen. McElveen's bill would require lawmakers to 'cool off'

Law would mandate period of time before legislators can take some state jobs

Posted

State Sens. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, and Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require legislators to "cool off" after leaving their elected positions and before taking some state jobs.

"This bill proposes a cool off period," McElveen said. "It's a public perception issue - we as lawmakers shouldn't be stepping from the Legislature immediately into these other state positions."

The bill follows former state Rep. Mike Pitts' withdrawal of his bid for S.C. Conservation Bank executive director after heated hearings. Lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee questioned Pitts' consideration of the job while he was still serving in the state House of Representatives before his January retirement.

Gov. Henry McMaster said to the press on Wednesday that, if passed, the legislation will get his signature. He could not be reached for further comment.

"We're very glad to have his support," McElveen said.

State lawmakers who are interested in a career as a judge or lobbyist have a mandatory waiting period of one to two years before they accept a position after retirement from the Legislature. Right now, there is no such requirement for legislators who take other high-salaried state jobs, such as the Conservation Bank executive director position.

Longtime legislators in South Carolina can also benefit from two retirement funds by taking state jobs. If they were elected before 2012 - and previous to the closure of a former General Assembly-operated retirement system - lawmakers can draw pay from the General Assembly system as well as from the system of another state agency. They can even count their years in the Legislature toward their years as a state employee, increasing the money they can receive from a second state job's fund.

McElveen, a member of the committee that vetted Pitts, said he was wary of Pitts' nomination because of the candidate's "lack of qualifications," and that, while many legislators are quite capable of success in other state positions, the public mistrusts a "revolving door" of lawmakers in state positions, regardless of r sum .

"A lot of [lawmakers], as citizens, were frustrated with the way things went in Columbia or Washington or at least with the way things were perceived," McElveen said. "One of my big goals in Columbia has always been to work on restoring the public trust."

As for the Conservation Bank position, McElveen said he was unaware of any new nomination by the Conservation Board for the executive director position. He said he will be looking for someone with the needed experience when vetting the organization's next pick for the position to lead safeguarding of lands across the state.

The Conservation Bank and Sen. Harpootlian could not be reached for comment.

"I believe in the mission of the Conservation Bank, and I'm looking for the next nominee to be qualified," McElveen said. "People need faith in the folks that represent and lead them."