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146Type of Legislation: General Bill GBIntroducing Body: SenateIntroduced Date: 20010116Primary Sponsor: LeathermanAll Sponsors: LeathermanDrafted Document Number: l:\council\bills\skb\18108som01.docResiding Body: SenateCurrent Committee: Judiciary Committee 11 SJSubject: Legislative Ethics committees, report of member for crime; filing of complaint, suspension of member; General AssemblyHistory Body Date Action Description Com Leg Involved ______ ________ ______________________________________ _______ ____________ Senate 20010116 Introduced, read first time, 11 SJ referred to Committee Versions of This Bill
TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-540, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO INVESTIGATIONS AND REPORTS OF THE LEGISLATIVE ETHICS COMMITTEES, SO AS TO DELETE THE REFERENCE TO DEFERRING TO THE HOUSE OR SENATE RULE AS APPROPRIATE, TO PROVIDE FOR THE RELEASE OF THE FILED COMPLAINT TO THE PUBLIC THIRTY DAYS AFTER IT IS FILED, AND TO PROVIDE THAT, EXCEPT FOR RELEASING THE COMPLAINT, THE COMMITTEE'S INVESTIGATION AND RECORDS FOR ITS PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION ARE CONFIDENTIAL; AND TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-560, RELATING TO THE SUSPENSION OF A HOUSE OR SENATE MEMBER UNDER INDICTMENT FOR PARTICULAR CRIMES, SO AS TO DELETE THE REFERENCE TO DEFERRING TO THE HOUSE OR SENATE RULE, AS APPROPRIATE.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Section 8-13-540 of the 1976 Code as last amended by Act 184 of 1993, is further amended to read:
Unless otherwise provided for by House or Senate rule, as appropriate, Each ethics committee must conduct its investigation of a complaint filed pursuant to this chapter or Chapter 17 of Title 2 in accordance with this section.
(1) When a complaint is filed with or by the ethics committee, a copy must promptly be sent to the person alleged to have committed the violation. Thirty days after a complaint is filed, the ethics committee must release it to the public. If the ethics committee determines the complaint does not allege facts sufficient to constitute a violation, the complaint must be dismissed and the complainant and respondent notified. If the ethics committee finds that the complaining party wilfully filed a groundless complaint, the finding must be reported to appropriate law enforcement authorities. The wilful filing of a groundless complaint is a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, a person must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than one year. In lieu of the criminal penalty provided by this subsection, a civil penalty of not more than one thousand dollars may be assessed against the complainant upon proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the filing of the complaint was wilful and without just cause or with malice. If the ethics committee determines the complaint alleges facts sufficient to constitute a violation, it shall promptly investigate the alleged violation and may compel by subpoena the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of pertinent books and papers.
such the preliminary investigation, the ethics committee finds that probable cause exists to support an alleged violation, it shall, as appropriate:
(a) render an advisory opinion to the respondent and require the respondent's compliance within a reasonable time; or
(b) convene a formal hearing on the matter within thirty days of the respondent's failure to comply with the advisory opinion. Except for releasing the complaint as public information thirty days after it is filed, all ethics committee investigations and records relating to the preliminary investigation are confidential. No complaint shall be accepted which is filed later than four years after the alleged violation occurred.
(2) If a hearing is to be held, the respondent must be allowed to examine and make copies of all evidence in the ethics committee's possession relating to the charges. At the hearing the charged party must be afforded appropriate due process protections, including the right to be represented by counsel, the right to call and examine witnesses, the right to introduce exhibits, and the right to cross-examine opposing witnesses. All hearings must be conducted in executive session.
(3) After the hearing, the ethics committee shall determine its findings of fact. If the ethics committee, based on competent and substantial evidence, finds the respondent has violated this chapter or Chapter 17 of Title 2, it shall:
(a) administer a public or private reprimand;
(b) determine that a technical violation as provided for in Section 8-13-1170 has occurred;
(c) recommend expulsion of the member; and/or,
(d) in the case of an alleged criminal violation, refer the matter to the Attorney General for investigation. The ethics committee shall report its findings in writing to the Speaker of the House or President Pro Tempore of the Senate, as appropriate. The report must be accompanied by an order of punishment and supported and signed by a majority of the ethics committee members. If the ethics committee finds the respondent has not violated a code or statutory provision, it shall dismiss the charges.
(4) An individual has ten days from the date of the notification of the ethics committee's action to appeal the action to the full legislative body.
(5) No ethics committee member may participate in any matter in which he is involved.
(6) The ethics committee shall establish procedures which afford respondents appropriate due process protections, including the right to be represented by counsel, the right to call and examine witnesses, the right to introduce exhibits, and the right to cross-examine opposing witnesses."
SECTION 2. Section 8-13-560 of the 1976 Code, as added by Act 248 of 1991, is amended to read:
Unless otherwise currently or hereafter provided for by House or Senate rule, as is appropriate:
(1) A member of the General Assembly who is indicted in a state court or a federal court for a crime that is a felony, a crime that involves moral turpitude, a crime that has a sentence of two or more years, or a crime that violates election laws must be suspended immediately without pay by the presiding officer of the House or Senate, as appropriate. The suspension remains in effect until the public official is acquitted, convicted, pleads guilty, or pleads nolo contendere. In the case of a conviction, the office must be declared vacant. In the event of an acquittal or dismissal of charges against the public official, he is entitled to reinstatement and back pay.
(2) If the public official is involved in an election between the time of the suspension and final conclusion of the indictment, the presiding officer of the House or Senate, or the Governor, as appropriate, shall again suspend him at the beginning of his next term. The suspended public official may not participate in the business of his public office."
SECTION 3. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
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