A South Carolina Senate subcommittee will take up a string of restructuring bills early Thursday morning, but at least one is raising concerns as a potential wedge issue.
Legislators are looking to move forward with a constitutional amendment that would require the lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket as the governor. Right now, both are elected separately. A House bill passed with little debate earlier this month. However, Senators are looking to pass their own version that seeks to strip the lieutenant governor of his duties presiding over the upper chamber.
The current lieutenant governor is Ken Ard, a Republican in his first year holding the office.
As part of his responsibilities, the lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and can theoretically control who speaks and what comes up for a vote. Some senators say they’re concerned about the separation of powers implications if the lieutenant governor began answering directly to the governor, if he or she lost their independent office. Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens) explained.
The fear is it would bring the Governor’s Office into the day-to-day operations of the Senate, which is not what we would like to see happen because of the need to keep the three branches of government separate.
Instead, proposed amendment would allow senators to elect one of their own to the post of President. The President would perform most of the duties currently done by the lieutenant governor during Senate proceedings.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen.Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston), currently serves as President pro-tempore of the Senate. As part of his duties, McConnell can fill in as acting president whenever Ard is not in the chamber.
SCRN was not able to reach Ard for comment. However, Martin said the lieutenant governor had sent a letter to senators urging them “to consider a variety of factors before making a decision.”
The change would move the Senate into a similar structure as the House, which currently elects a speaker who performs much of the same duties as the Senate President.