Republican Weston Newton was re-elected to South Carolina’s House of Representatives District 120, a position representing Beaufort and Jasper Counties that he’s held since he was first elected in 2012.
After two years in the House, he was asked to chair a new committee on oversight. In the past four years, Newton has set a standard for transparency and accountability from agencies across the state.
“Oversight is bi-partisan. It’s fact-finding. It’s about what the agencies are doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and not being afraid to ask those difficult questions not knowing what the answers may be,” Newton told New 3.
“I believe that we do ourselves a disservice, both as public and members of the elected body, when we are not completely open and transparent,” he added.
The committee publicly studies and recommends changes for state agencies. One of the most recent studies found problems with leadership in public safety.
But Newton says there are still areas that need improvement like the Freedom of Information Act.
“One change that I have not been able to get passed, and I am going to try again this year, is the removal of the exemption for the members of the General Assembly,” Newton said.
The act, known as FOIA, gives the public access to records and documents under a federal agency.
“The governor lives with it, the lieutenant governor lives with it, all members of our, the mayors, county council people,” Newton said. “That law doesn’t apply to the members of the general assembly. Uniquely, it does not apply specifically to those 170 folks, and quite frankly, I just think that it should.”
Newton’s tried to pass the bill several times, but it’s never gained enough support.
“I’m hoping that this year, we’ll reintroduce it, and we’ll gain some momentum, and if nothing else, we’re continuing to espouse, that which really is part of good government, and that’s transparency and accountability,” he said.
Newton will receive the Inaugural Carl Levin Oversight Award in Washington D.C. this week, recognizing him for his leadership in oversight.
He plans to pre-file the Freedom of Information Exemption bill again this December.