SC Senate panel advances ethics reform

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina Senate panel has advanced an ethics reform package that removes ethics investigations from legislators.

The bill sent Tuesday to the full Judiciary Committee overhauls the makeup of the state Ethics Commission board and puts it in charge of investigating possible ethics violations by legislators.

The measure keeps House and Senate ethics committees in place. But their roles would change. They would publicly determine how to punish members for non-criminal allegations only after the commission does its work and finds probable cause a violation occurred.

Republican Sen. Chip Campsen says that ensures an independent investigation while avoiding constitutional questions. The state constitution says each chamber is responsible for disciplining its members.

The House plan approved last week created a joint House-Senate committee of legislators and people they select.

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