State senators are drafting a letter to a little-noted agency this week in hopes of changing the wording of a 2012 constitutional amendment that could impact who would become South Carolina’s next lieutenant governor.
Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, plans to send a letter to the state Legislative Council this week asking them to fix the formal wording of a 2012 constitutional amendment that is different from language voters actually approved. The amendment eliminated the lieutenant governor as an independent elected official, instead allowing the governor to pick their running mate or replacement. The referendum stated the change would occur in 2018 (when Gov. Nikki Haley’s second term expired).
However, the 2018 date was not included when the state constitution was ultimately amended a year after the referendum. The omission was not noticed until last month, when Gov. Nikki Haley announced her intention to resign next year for a job as the US ambassador to the United Nations. Her resignation would mean Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is elevated to the Governor’s Office. Under the pre-2012 constitution, the Senate president pro tempore would then become lieutenant governor. However, Leatherman has indicated he does not want the largely-ceremonial post.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said the omission is creating the potential for legal problems. He and State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, are drafting the letter with Leatherman’s blessing.
“We’ve got the very real prospect of the succession to the lieutenant governor being something the voters didn’t approve to be effective before 2018,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The Legislative Council is the agency responsible for drafting and publishing South Carolina’s laws. Davis said the agency requires proof that a mistake was made by needing 1) the original joint resolution legislators passed to create the referendum, 2) the text of the constitutional amendment approved by voters; and 3) the official text ratified by lawmakers after the amendment passed. Since the 2018 date was included in each of the three documents, Davis said he anticipates the council will agree to the request.
He emphasized the Legislative Council would not be changing the constitution itself, but would simply alter the document’s wording to match what voters actually approved four years ago.