As part of an effort to assess legislators’ views on the length of session, balance of power and roll call voting, citizen reporters from The Nerve are posing questions to lawmakers from around South Carolina. In the following, Citizen Reporter Tom Hatfield interviews Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort:
Q: South Carolina’s legislative session is the longest in the Southeast and the longest in the United States among part-time legislatures. Would you support shortening the legislative session to no more than 45 legislative days?
A: I would support shortening the session and as a matter of fact have voted for that. As part of that support I would encourage mandatory and public record on attendance to subcommittees and committees because we could shorten the workload with well-attended committee meetings.
Q: Because so much power is concentrated in the legislative branch, the leadership is therefore powerful through appointments to 250-plus executive branch boards and commissions. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore, alone, make more than 120 appointments to executive branch functions. Do you believe there is an equal balance of power among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of S.C. state government? How would you propose changing the current system?
A: I don’t believe there is equal power in the branches. I have talked with legislators in other states that elect the judiciary by popular vote; the issue we get is the trial lawyers and other special interests funding the campaigns of the judicial candidates can slant the process. I was elected to represent my folks here in District 118; I read all of the screening reports and actually do further due diligence on judicial races. I don’t think judges should be appointed by the executive branch. I am however open to suggestions.
With regards to more power delegated to the executive branch, I’ve voted for that, as have most Republicans.
Q: Given that many of the legislative reforms citizens have asked for have not been implemented yet, would you support a change in leadership?
A: That’s another broad statement. I was one of the legislators that supported Jim Harrison for Speaker (in 2006), I was public about that and would be very public about who I support now. And I think that it should be a public vote, recorded so all of our constituents can see who we voted for.
I didn’t support Bobby for Speaker on his first run, I’m on Ways and Means and I’m the Chief Majority Whip. I have disagreements with Bobby and we talk them out and I have to say I admire him for the fairness he’s shown me. I will also say that he’s been a tireless supporter of the Republican Party and the Caucus. He’s also got a great track record in business. I enthusiastically support Bobby and as a side note I think of him as a friend.
Q: For the past two years the General Assembly has only recorded 25 percent of votes they took. How would you propose improving the voting record in the House? Would you support a Constitutional amendment requiring recorded votes?
A: I’m on the rules committee and we passed the rule that all votes that had to do with appropriations shall be recorded. We also passed that in the house as separate legislation. I would also think that important votes in subcommittee and full committee should be recorded. We sometimes can’t get good legislation to the floor because it’s killed in committee. I would also highly recommend that committee and subcommittee attendance be taken and posted.
Most things that are important are on the contested calendar; it assures debate and a fair airing. All proposed legislation that is on the contested calendar calls for a recorded roll call vote.
I don’t agree that a recorded vote needs to be taken for smaller issues such as license plates, bridge naming, or a multitude of smaller business matters. Remember, the sessions are recorded and those are open to the public. If (all votes were recorded) the shortening of the session would be more difficult.