Nikki Haley is sending out report cards. She will be grading the votes of state legislators.
The governor's announcement last week came with a letter "To the People of South Carolina"
that said: "The purpose of the report card is to track the results of legislation that are important to what you elected me to accomplish. And believe me, your voice is loud and clear: you want more transparency, more accountability, more efficiency, and you want it done with less of your money.
"This is not personal. This is not partisan. This is good government."
The 13 categories for judging state House
members include votes on spending caps, requiring more on-the-record votes, requiring the governor and lieutenant governor to run together on one ticket, and votes to sustain Haley's vetoes on the budget. The card leaves space for "other issues to be determined."
While state Sen. David Thomas, a Republican from Greenville, told The State
newspaper that he appreciated the report cards because they spelled out Haley's priorities, state Sen. Joel Lourie, a Democrat from Richland, called the report cards an offensive public relations stunt. "Am I supposed to take it home and get my mother to sign it?" Lourie said.
Haley was certainly clear about her uncompromising conservative views during her campaign
against Democratic opponent Vincent Sheheen. In pre-election debates
, she supported South Carolina's status as a right-to-work state and her intention to "keep unions out." The pro-business Haley also looked to corporations for solutions to the state's budget problems, suggesting that they step in to save libraries. But issues at times faded into the background amid charges that she had had extramarital affairs and name-calling
(and that was just from her own party).
Haley also gently put distance between herself and her one-time mentor, former Gov. Mark Sanford
. It wasn't just because of his messy public affair with a woman he called his soul mate. (He is now divorced.) It was also his reputation for butting heads with legislators and for such stunts as carrying two live pigs into the House chamber in 2004 to protest the override of his veto on a budget bill Sanford said contained "pork." He garnered national attention as a rising Republican star before his personal life unraveled over several news cycles.
The telegenic, Indian-American Haley started out a star, with the backing of the tea party and the support of Sarah Palin. Haley and her state are in no danger of disappearing off the national map, especially with South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary drawing all manner of presidential hopefuls, and a debate among them scheduled for May.
As governor, Haley is comfortable in the national spotlight, whether it is confronting the president in Washington or telling The New York Times
magazine on Sunday, "I don't lose."
For now, the state's first female governor is following up on the vision she laid out in her State of the State address
, which promised smaller government and specific cuts to trim South Carolina's budget shortfalls.
Her plans to cut $2.5 million in financing for the arts commission and more than $9.5 million to ETV have met resistance. ETV operates a statewide network of television and radio stations and a closed-circuit telecommunications system used by schools, government agencies and businesses. Though the system is popular, Haley's actions follow similar moves by state governments across the country.
Haley has also had a number of legislative successes, including bipartisan support on House measures to create a new Department of Administration under the governor's control, and to require the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket.
She remains firm in her opposition to federal health-care reform legislation; she has urged President Obama to let South Carolina opt out while it comes up with its own plan.
Speaking of her plans to issue her report card: "I understand that it is difficult for all 168 members of the General Assembly and I to agree, but certainly we can be united in recognizing that we do the people's work and it's to the people that we have to answer. My hope is that you find the report card useful in helping exercise the power of your voice and instructive when you go the polls to elect your chosen leaders."
And the elected officials she has pledged to work with?
"Let me be clear: I will give your legislators prior notice about where I stand on legislation, as I have done throughout the year thus far, so that they will know what could be included in the report card before votes are cast."
Presumably, Haley won't be grading on a curve.
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