Ethics reform.
Those two words have been bandied about in Columbia for quite some time now. When it comes to political topics, let's face the fact ethics reform is not the sexiest on the list. Then again, with recent tales of political comebacks orchestrated by Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner making the news, we don't need sexy.
But roads are not sexy topics, either. Really, there are no sexy topics unless you're a lawmaker who knows what might get your constituency behind you, and that can include improved roads. Gov. Nikki Haley thinks this is part of the problem lawmakers in Columbia are facing today. While some lawmakers have, as she put it in a telephone conference call with newspaper editors Thursday, hijacked the Senate floor and are playing partisan politics, others are saying that among their constituency, transportation is a far more important topic than ethics reform.

THERE EXISTS A GREAT DESIRE among lawmakers in both parties to apply some solid ethics reform, the governor said, and it is important the public understand real reform is as vital to this state as improved roads and bridges. That is why Haley was urging lawmakers last week to stand down on other issues, get the state's budget taken care of and move quickly to get an ethics reform bill on her desk.
Ethics reform is not just some catch phrase, at least not when and if real reform takes place. As the governor noted, this has everything to do with efforts to re-establish a more open government in Columbia. It is about peeling back the layers that can allow the public to follow the money, which has been the Great Influencer since the beginning of time. It's about full income disclosure and giving the public the ability to see where conflicts of interest exist in political circles.

Certainly, the governor is no stranger to this, having been the subject of an ethics investigation into whether her days as a House member were tainted by conflicts of interest while also on the payroll of a hospital as a fundraiser. That fact could raise some doubts about her sincerity on the topic of reform. But let's face it, this is legislation moving forward, not something that will likely open any closet doors that would have a negative impact, at least not on her.

"WE ARE AS CLOSE TO EVER AS we could hope to be" in getting ethics reform in our state government, Haley said Thursday. She praised former state attorneys general Travis Medlock and Henry McMaster for their work in cobbling together an ethics reform foundation while leading the state Commission on Ethics Reform she appointed last year.
While frustrated with the seemingly little progress that has been made on ethics reform since before Christmas, Haley is also optimistic.
"I don't want it to be a partisan debate," she said. "If we can just get a small group of Dems to come over, we got this."
And maybe, just maybe, Haley's optimism is not unfounded. The Senate worked late Thursday and hammered out a $6.3 billion budget plan to send to the House. That budget addressed the sexier topics of roads and bridges, education and school buses.
Now, perhaps, they will do something equally important, in the long haul, for the people they serve by instituting some parameters that shed more light on them and, we hope, helps keep them more on the straight and narrow.

POST SCRIPT: If you've already read Chris Trainor's column on page 2A, you'll understand. If not, I suggest you turn to that page now. Just know this: Chris does not always share accurate information about me. So, for the record, it is a camo Speedo.

Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email rwhiting@indexjournal.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.