Some state lawmakers say they would support eliminating the position of Lt. Governor in South Carolina. The office has received a lot of attention in recent months after Governor Mark Sanford went to Argentina for the better part of a week. Members of the General Assembly were critical of Sanford’s actions in part because Lt. Governor Andre Bauer was not left specifically in control during his absence. Critics accused Sanford of not letting anyone know where he was, even though Sanford said that one unnamed person did know.
Pickens County Republican Senator Larry Martin says while lawmakers continue to argue whether or not the Governor and Lt. Governor should run on the same ticket; he believes that the lower office can be done away with entirely. “It’s worthy of consideration,” said Martin. “A lot of states don’t have a Lt. Governor and South Carolina is not big compared to some states. There is little historical basis for the expectations that a lot of people have for him to influence public policy, when in reality he has little power to influence anything. It would save taxpayers $300,000 to $500,000.
The Lt. Governor is paid as a part-time job. But Martin says constituents generally expect the Lt. Governor to be available full time. Martin added that he could remember several examples where Governors and Lt. Governors had not communicated well, even one instance when Lt. Governor Nick Theodore didn’t know that Governor Carroll Campbell was out of the country.
Martin and other lawmakers we talked with didn’t have any problems with the job that Lt. Governor Andre Bauer was doing, and even commended him on the work of the Office on Aging, which is under his office.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison has said that a law is already in place that would have put the Lt. Governor in charge in the case of an emergency. But Harrison, who joined a handful of lawmakers for a legislative preview for the media Thursday, questions how easily the law could be used. “If the Lt. Governor doesn’t even know the Governor is out of the state,”said Harrison, “everyone is satisfied under the constitution that the Lt. Governor does have the authority to execute those powers in an emergency.”
Senator Glenn McConnell says he’s putting legislation forward that would clarify what such an emergency should be.
Martin says chances of the Lt. Governor taking over authority from the Governor during an emergency are slim to none. Unless, says Martin, South Carolina would become like the state of Texas, and put the Lt. Governor in charge anytime the Governor leaves the state.
Harrison argues that putting the Governor and Lt. Governor on the same ticket could reduce the chances of the two not communicating over matters such as travel plans, but he added that the current office holders are members of the same party and that they have not communicated well.
And apparently Martin is not alone in his belief. Other lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Brad Hutto(HUT-toe), say that it would be worth debating. But Hutto said that if the position is not dissolved, he does not believe that the support exists in the General Assembly to put the positions on the same ticket. “As I see it members of the public want the right to help us make decisions, and taking away their right to vote on Lt. Governor will be seen as taking away their right to decide who will replace the governor.”