SC senators 1st new bill goes after governor appointments

December 13, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Several powerful South Carolina state senators want to clarify when the governor can make appointments to state agencies and boards without their vote.

They filed state Senate Bill No. 1 on Wednesday, in response to a state Supreme Court ruling saying Gov. Henry McMaster’s recess appointment power is valid any time there is an opening.

The bill would end the governor’s ability to appoint someone without the Senate’s permission as soon as the Legislature returns to Columbia.

McMaster and senators went to court this year after the governor picked former Attorney General Charlie Condon to be chairman of the state-owned utility Santee Cooper in March. The job came open last December, days before lawmakers returned to Columbia.

The Senate never brought Condon’s appointment to a vote in 2018 — some thought it was an intentional snub — and McMaster used his recess appointment power to go ahead and put Condon on the board.

The only check currently on McMaster’s power is if the Senate rejects the governor’s appointment when they return to session, he can’t appoint the same person again after they adjourn, according to the state Supreme Court ruling, which was unanimous and signed by all the justices.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman of Florence, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler of West Columbia and Republican Sen. Harvey Peeler of Gaffney — the three longest serving senators. They are joined by Republican Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey of Edgefield, Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Luke Rankin of Myrtle Beach and Democratic Sen. Gerald Malloy of Hartsville.

It was one of 298 bills filed Wednesday.

Leatherman and Massey told The Post and Courier of Charleston that the bill clears up any confusion over the Senate’s role as a check on the governor’s power to make appointments.

“I expect quick consideration and passage of this legislation that reestablishes the process of how interim appointments are handled, a process that worked well and was unquestioned for over 100 years,” Leatherman said.

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