LOC studies lead to more efficiency, accountability

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In my previous column in this space, I gave an introduction to the Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC) of the South Carolina House of Representatives. I tried to introduce you to the purpose of the committee, how it works, and why it is important that you understand how your voice can contribute to the success of this project.

Our General Assembly is dominated by the legislature. This means that 170 elected members pretty much call the shots in our state government. A better way to run a state, as we continually learn and relearn, is to have an executive - a governor - as the chief executive who appoints a cabinet constituting the heads of all the departments and agencies.

The legislature returns to doing legislative things, and the executive branch handles executive matters.

If there are essentially 170 minor executives, there are no lines of responsibility, no accountability for how well or poorly we are doing the people's business.

The LOC, by doing in-depth, programmatic studies of each department or agency of the state government every seven years, provides a high level of accountability for each governmental unit. In the near term, this works to increase efficiency, reduce redundancy, and save tax dollars.

In the longer term, these high-quality studies also provide leaders with solid information to guide our halting progress in restructuring our government.

Our efforts have not gone unnoticed. The LOC received the 2018 Certificate of Impact from the National Conference of State Legislatures National Legislative Program Evaluation Society. The award was for our study of the Department of Public Safety.

I wasn't able to attend the meeting and the award ceremony, but two of our senior staff did represent the committee.

In a related development, as founding chairman of LOC, I have been nominated for the Carl Levin Award for Effective Oversight, by the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School.

According to their website, "This award is established to promote legislative oversight and to recognize those legislators who conduct it. Too often oversight is marred by politically or ideologically driven conduct that damages public confidence in government, diminishes legislative comity, distorts public policy and wastes taxpayer dollars. When conducted well, on a bipartisan basis, with a commitment to finding the facts and uncovering the truth, oversight fulfills the checks and balances envisioned by our Constitution, fosters bipartisan legislative relationships, builds public trust in legislatures, and improves public policy and government programs."

I am certainly pleased with the nomination, but win or lose, the fact that oversight has such a profound and salutary effect on the efficiency and the proper workings of our essential institutions, and is starting to be more widely recognized, is a win for good government.

Finally, my hat is off to our emergency management folks, both state and local. They were confronted recently with a very challenging and dangerous storm that had the potential to rewrite all the record books.

They prepared for what they could and were watchful and flexible enough to respond to each turn and twist of the emergency.

As for Rose and I, we said our prayers, and were grateful.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.

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