A Republican legislator from Rock Hill plans to challenge current House Speaker Bobby Harrell for the job. Rep. Ralph Norman says he wants to change the culture and priorities of the House from what they have recently been. Norman said he was very unhappy with how the House leadership dealt with budget cuts last year.
Things that I considered… on the table to be either discussed or potentially eliminated, weren’t having the dialogue that really needed to take place. I decided that the only way for me to really effectively do that is to run for Speaker.
Norman admits he has a tough road to take the post from the powerful Harrell, who has led the House since 2005. He said he is talking with his fellow House members at party caucuses and that he believes other legislators agree with him, but are reluctant to go against the established speaker in Harrell.
Norman said his primary gripe is with the current culture that places too much control of House proceedings in the hands of its leaders. He says it does not offer a forum for those with opposing views, even within the Republican Party.
What we’ve had in the past is just if it wasn’t approved by the Speaker and certain members of leadership, you just couldn’t talk about it… for fear of retribution. I’ve made that known that the retribution has got to stop. I’ve made that known publicly to everybody.
He said Rep. Nikki Haley (R-Lexington) and Rep. Nathan Ballentine (R-Lexington) were two legislators who challenged the leadership in recent years, and were marginalized as a result.
Norman said if he were elected speaker he would try to pressure lawmakers into looking at the state as a whole, and not at their individual districts and projects. He pointed to his own record of voting against projects that would have benefitted York County as an example he says needs to be repeated in the tight fiscal year ahead.
Norman says he also hopes his fellow legislators will carefully approach the budget shortfall this upcoming year, and not merely cut across the board at every department and agency.
There’s going to be some severe cuts. One of the things that I hope doesn’t happen, whether I’m Speaker or not, are across the board cuts. (They) are the most unfair tax. They’re taxes that just don’t make sense and are not fair. Hopefully, we won’t be doing that.
The Republican Party caucus will meet in Columbia on November 17 to elect the Speaker of the House for the upcoming 2011 session.