Following last month’s column, a handful of folks asked me to elaborate on the House Legislative Oversight Committee structure, process and scope of authority.

The committee was formed in 2014 following the passage of legislation that required more robust oversight of state agencies. Our vision statement is: “For South Carolina agencies to become, and continuously remain, the most effective state agencies in the country through processes which eliminate waste and efficiently deploy resources, thereby creating greater confidence in state government.”

Our mission statement is: “Determine if agency laws and programs are being implemented and carried out in accordance with the intent of the General Assembly and whether they should be continued, curtailed or eliminated [and] inform the public about state agencies.”   

As the inaugural chair of the committee, I am the architect of its rules and standard practices. Through these, public input is a firmly established cornerstone of our process. We essentially voice the concerns of the people we serve. 

Our process starts with scheduled, objective reviews of agencies focused on obtaining a single set of facts, separated from any partisan influence. 

We first ask the agencies to engage staff at all levels in self-analysis and provide the assigned subcommittee an overview of its operations, including success and challenges. All information received from agencies is considered the agency head’s sworn testimony. 

While the agency conducts this self-analysis, the full committee solicits public input through online surveys and holds public hearings, with all testimony provided to the committee being under oath; agency representatives are allowed to respond to public comments and efforts are made to verify the veracity of information from independent sources. 

Next, the subcommittee holds public hearings with the agency developing findings and recommendations, and drafting a report. Typically, an agency will go through nine to 11 hearings in this process. The subcommittee report is then presented to full committee for discussion and consideration. 

In addition to informing the public, one of our primary goals is for our colleagues to become confident enough in their knowledge of agency operations to both detect issues and craft useful solutions. An effective oversight process informs and engages legislators to have a substantive discussion of ideas with agency personnel about how to continually improve their operation and the overall operation of state government.

This oversight helps legislators make informed policy decisions. To make informed decisions, you need public input and accurate data. If the data does not exist, oversight is a way to encourage data collection and program evaluation. 

As a result of our committee’s work, more than 150 committee recommendations have been implemented through agency internal action and, as mentioned last month, in just this last legislative session, 36 recommendations have been implemented via legislative enactment. 

Additionally, our committee has been recognized five consecutive years by the National Conference of State Legislature’s Legislative Evaluation Society. This Committee continues to set the standard for effective oversight, and I am proud to be a part of that work.

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