Record of Leadership: The Life Sciences Bill

Charleston, SC – February 7, 2013 – For years in Columbia, legislators had made a habit of attaching costly items unrelated to the original purpose of a bill, in a practice known as “bobtailing.”

 

Mark Sanford led the fight to end the practice.

 

In 2004, the General Assembly passed a bill called the “Life Sciences Act,” which began as an economic development incentives and venture capital bill, but was eventually loaded up with more than a dozen provisions that had nothing to do with the original intent of the bill.

 
It was commonplace in Columbia, because it gave politicians the political cover to be “for” the parts they liked and “against” the parts they didn’t like simultaneously. It hurt taxpayers and shortchanged voters, because of the way it both added to the cost of government, and was an end-around the typical legislative process. More than anything it eroded legislative accountability, as anyone could find a reason to be for or against any bill and thereby please the constituent before them, while allowing them to please the next constituent with an opposite answer based on an opposing concern. Quite simply, there can be no taxpayer accountability in any bill that allows its proponents to be “all things to all people” because the bill has “all” in it.

 

In his March 16, 2004 veto message to the General Assembly, Sanford wrote the following: “I am vetoing this bill in its entirety based primarily upon my fundamental objection to receiving legislation that has numerous tack-ons, each containing their own complex policy considerations, many of which did not receive appropriate public debate.”

 

The General Assembly overwhelmingly overrode the governor’s veto. But the governor joined efforts to have the bill declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, and ultimately won that battle in a victory for taxpayers.

 

The Court made clear that future efforts to “bobtail” legislation would be similarly struck down, effectively ending the practice.

 

“During the whole of my time in office, we’ve always kept our eye on the ball when it came to protecting taxpayers,” Sanford said. “Fighting this bill all the way to the state Supreme Court was one of the early victories of our Administration, and one that is still yielding benefits for taxpayers to this day.”

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