Some Bills More Than Meet The Eye

August 6, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveSometimes, there’s more to a bill than meets the eye.

The point rings true in regard to a report by The Nerve last Friday about special-interest bills and weird proposals in this year’s legislative session, which ended in late June.

In exploring the idea of shortening South Carolina’s annual gathering of the General Assembly, the story cited a few off-the-beaten-path measures floated by lawmakers this go-round.

The article, admittedly, gave those bills only cursory attention.

Well, helping to keep The Nerve’s feet to the fire, a few readers commented on the dispatch and provided a little background on two of the bills mentioned in the write-up:

  • H. 4501, sponsored by Rep. Michael Pitts, R-Laurens, to provide “that silver and gold coin shall be legal tender in payment of certain debts.”
  • And H. 4468, introduced by Reps. Michael Thompson, R-Anderson, and Boyd Brown, D-Fairfield, to create the “South Carolina Study Committee Study Committee” to evaluate “the state’s past and future uses of study committees for assessing and developing state policies and related legislation.”

So, OK, if there was a good rationale for those seemingly wacky would-be laws, what exactly were their backers thinking?Glad you asked.

Upstate resident Harry Kibler provided the 411 on the bill to make silver and gold coin legal tender in the Palmetto State.

“For those that understand the destruction of our national currency and the ultimate demise thereof, we requested this bill to help bring stability to the South Carolina economy and our own personal financial wellbeing,” Kibler, 43, said in an e-mail to The Nerve.

“I have to admit, when I first heard about this proposed idea it sounded, well, kooky. However, after careful research I became a supporter and wish it had passed. Rep. Mike Pitts truly understands the need for such a bill.”

But for a brief pause under former President Bill Clinton, the federal government has been racking up historic levels of debt for decades. Mounting every day, the national debt stands at nearly $13.3 trillion as of this report, according to usdebtclock.org.

In a phone interview, Kibler says he is concerned that the borrowing could lead to runaway inflation “and ultimately the possibility of the devaluation of our currency. It’s scary.”

The bill, he says, was meant to allow silver and gold coin as another option for legal tender, not as a replacement for U.S. currency.

Says Pitts, “It’s about having something besides a promise behind our money.”

The joint resolution, which cites the states’ rights 10th Amendment as its enabling authority, did not make it out of committee before the session ended. But it did pick up three co-sponsors along the way.

As for the study committee proposal, it’s a gut buster.

In the form of a joint resolution, the measure says the duties of the panel would include recommending to the General Assembly “necessary legislation, rules, programs and policies to ensure that in the future, study committees are formed only when study is needed, and neither generally over-study nor under-study, nor study issues that either need not be studied, or that have already been studied to death.”

That’s an actual quote from the legislation.

But there’s a serious point to it, according to one of the comments on last week’s story.

“H. 4468 was introduced as a way of showing the absurdity of all the study committees that get passed and never accomplish anything,” said the commenter, who signed in as “Tummy.”

“One would think you would be in favor of this but I guess once again you all can’t see the forest for the trees,” Tummy added.

To wit, reading the joint resolution makes it worth the paper it was printed on. And toward that end, it’s best to let the bill speak for itself:

“The General Assembly finds that:

“(1) on a recurrent basis the General Assembly relies upon study committees to study issues before the General Assembly, both those previously studied and unstudied; and

“(2) no study committee has ever studied study committees to specifically study the effectiveness of study committees at resolving or solving the issue or problem that the study committees studied.

“(B) It is the goal of the General Assembly to ensure that:

“(1) study committees are studied to study the optimal use of study committees to ensure study committees are neither being formed needlessly nor studying issues already sufficiently studied; and

“(2) to ensure that study committees are actually studying when they say they are studying.”

Efforts to reach Thompson, the prime sponsor of the bill, were unsuccessful.

But in lieu of the lawmaker, here’s more language of the bill, specifically other duties of the study committee:

“(2) engage consultants and counsel with expertise in issues relating to studying;

“(3) study the various forms of study committees the General Assembly has used to study and or conduct studies;

“(4) assess the need for study committee studies in unstudied and understudied areas of study;

“(5) study all previous studies by study committees created by the General Assembly and develop a draft study to be studied to identify the best studiers and their study habits.”

Had the joint resolution passed, it would have required the committee to present a report on its findings to the governor, the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House by Dec. 31.

Given the comic relief of the bill, that’s one study committee report we’re definitely going to miss.

Reach Ward at (803) 254-4411 or eric@scpolicycouncil.com.