As there remains a question of whether or not the South Carolina Senate will return to session this week, the Speaker of the House says his chamber of legislators will be there.
Last week, Governor Nikki Haley, upset that senators did not pass a government restructuring bill she pushed for, ordered legislators to return to session Tuesday. The order came despite the fact that the Senate officially adjourned last week.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell said lawmakers from his body would return and be on “stand-by” until the Senate passed the bill. H. 3066 is meant to move a collection of state bureaucratic agencies out of the Budget and Control Board– a part-legislative, part-executive agency that makes much of the state’s financial decisions– and into a new Department of Administration under the governor’s control.
However, Senate President pro tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) said Haley’s order is unconstitutional and he plans to seek a judgment from the state Supreme Court first thing Monday morning. McConnell argued a government restructuring does not meet the “extraordinary” circumstance necessary to call legislators back into session.
However, Attorney General Alan Wilson reaffirmed a 1984 opinion that would give Haley the power to continue the session. The opinion from then-Attorney General Travis Medlock said, “The Governor alone is the judge, and although he errs, the courts have no jurisdiction to review his decision or correct his error.”
McConnell and other legislators also questioned whether they can even return for an extended session, since they are technically in sine die, or special session. Lawmakers had already planned to return June 14, but due to the rules they set for sine die, the Department of Administration bill could not be taken up again until next year.
The government restructuring bill passed unanimously on second reading Wednesday. However, some Democrats, upset the House had not honored its promise to address early voting this session, held up the critical third reading in the Senate’s final hours Thursday.
Only 12 senators, led by Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) have said they plan to be in Columbia Tuesday. McConnell warned them the Senate doors would be locked.