A review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
With Henry McMaster becoming governor mere minutes after Nikki Haley’s confirmation as United Nations ambassador Tuesday, you could maybe forgive us in the media for yearning for a bit more action and drama.
We may get it Wednesday in the state Senate, where a power struggle could be at play in the maneuvering to replace McMaster at the lieutenant governor’s position.
The South Carolina Constitution requires the Senate President Pro Tempore to become lieutenant governor once the office is vacated, but Hugh Leatherman resigned the position so he would not have to take the largely-ceremonial “number two” job for only two years. Senators are expected to temporarily elect State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, as Pro Tem on Wednesday so he can then assume the lieutenant governor position.
But it could become dicey after that once Leatherman attempts to win back his old job. State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, has told The Charleston Post and Courier that he will oppose the 85-year-old chairman. Peeler and many conservative Republicans have been irritated at Leatherman for several years now, after he won the Pro Tem post under similar circumstances in 2014. Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said Peeler has promised to uphold state law, which he believes Leatherman circumvented when he resigned to avoid his constitutional duty.
Massey said he suspects Leatherman still has the votes to regain his old seat, largely with the help of Senate Democrats who view him as more pragmatic than Peeler and other Republicans. But the vote could still show the GOP’s dissatisfaction with the Senate’s most powerful member, who also chairs the budget committee and serves on the state’s top financial panel.
— An Aiken County legislator facing domestic violence-related charges resigned his seat in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday, just hours after House leaders formally began an effort to expel him. State Rep. Chris Corley, R-Graniteville, had already been suspended from the chamber by House Speaker Jay Lucas after his indictment on a domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature charge and for pointing a weapon at his wife. Tuesday’s resignation came only an hour after Lucas formally filed a resolution expelling Corley from the chamber. The House had not yet acted on the resolution.
— The Senate Education Committee will consider a bill that allows the governor to appoint the state’s education superintendent. Currently the position is elected by state voters, but the bill’s supporters argue the change would allow the governor to have more control over education and avoid conflicts between the Department of Education and the Governor’s Office. Opponents questioned whether the governor would simply place politically-connected appointees to the position. Voters would have to approve the change, which would not take effect until 2023.
— A teaching activist who nearly won the Democratic Party’s nomination for education superintendent in 2014 has died at age 64. Sheila Gallagher had a Florence County Democratic Party chair and was active with the South Carolina Education Association when she won a plurality of votes during the 2014 primary. However, she lost in the runoff to education consultant Tommy Thompson. Thompson, in turn, fell to Republican candidate Molly Spearman in the general election. She also successfully filed a legal case in 2012 that led the state Supreme Court to weigh in on candidates who unintentionally violated registration laws.