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Haley lays out how S.C. officials can make grade

Agree with me, and I will give you a good grade, Gov. Nikki Haley told S.C. lawmakers Thursday, handing out copies of the report cards that she will use to grade lawmakers at the end of the legislative session.

Haley said she will make the report cards public.

The move by the freshman Republican governor rankled some legislators, including Democrats. But some of Haley's fellow Republicans said they were OK with the idea.

Later Thursday, at a Lexington Town Hall meeting, Haley expanded her aim to include state employees in addition to state legislators.

Taking a page from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Haley said some benefits that public employees have, such as pensions and health care, need to be changed.

State government retirees still should get their promised benefits, Haley said. But "we're going to have to make some changes" for new workers, she said, without elaborating.

The legislators' report cards list 13 categories on which Haley will grade each of the 168 senators and House members.

They include whether each legislator supports:

Haley's preferred version of a bill requiring more on-the-record votes by lawmakers. The House already has passed the bill. But state senators could be in danger of a low grade. While the Senate has approved a rule change that requires more recorded votes, they have balked at passing Haley's preferred version of the roll-call bill, calling it unconstitutional.

Creating a new Department of Administration as well as merging two existing state agencies, the departments of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, and Corrections. Haley has pushed for the changes.

Supporting two questions on the 2012 ballot. One would give the governor the power to appoint the state superintendent of education. The other would require that the governor and lieutenant governor run together on one ticket, as the U.S. president and vice president do. Currently, they run separately. Haley favors both proposals.

Requiring more financial disclosure from lawmakers. Haley is backing a Senate bill that would require lawmakers - and her -to disclose to the State Ethics Commission any gifts or services that they get from companies that have contracts with the state and from groups that lobby lawmakers. The bill also would require lawmakers to disclose any contractual work they have done for companies that employ appointed members of state boards or commissions.

Haley did not disclose similar financial conflicts that she had when she was a state representative.

Haley's tax returns, released during last year's campaign, show she earned nearly $43,000 between 2007 and 2009 from a never-before-then-disclosed contractual job with Midlands engineering company, Wilbur Smith. Both the company, which has done work for the state, and Haley declined to say what she did to earn that money.

Democrats were not impressed by Haley's report card.

"There's nothing here that relates to [creating] jobs, jobs, jobs," said state Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter. "This is not a path forward to jobs. This is a path forward to continued campaigning."

On the campaign trail before last year's election, Haley said that if she was elected governor, she would grade lawmakers on whether they supported her agenda. She also said she would travel to legislators' districts to praise their efforts if they supported her, or "hold their hands to the fire" if they opposed her.

Haley repeated that promise in a letter Thursday that accompanied a draft of the report card.

"The purpose of the report card is to track the results of legislation that are important to the people of South Carolina," the letter reads in part. "This is not personal. This is not partisan. This is good government."

But state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said Haley - who narrowly won election, taking 51 percent of the vote - does not own a monopoly on deciding what is good government.

On the Senate floor Thursday, Lourie said Haley won less than 40 percent of the vote in his Richland County district. He said he plans to vote the way that residents in his district want him to, not how Haley wants.

If that earns him F's on Haley's report card, Lourie said, he is fine with it.

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