A review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
— The state Senate on Wednesday reelected State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, as its president pro tempore, but it came after a revolt by two-thirds of his own party. The 85-year-old Leatherman, widely viewed as South Carolina’s most powerful elected official, had resigned the very same position on Tuesday. Since the state constitution requires the Senate president pro tempore become lieutenant governor once the office becomes vacant, Leatherman temporarily gave up the seat to avoid the largely-ceremonial position. But 16 Republicans who opposed to Leatherman said he had a constitutional duty to move into the lieutenant governor’s post,
— Senators elected former State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, to become lieutenant governor Wednesday afternoon. He replaced Henry McMaster, who was sworn in as governor Tuesday evening following Nikki Haley’s confirmation as United Nations ambassador. Since the state constitution requires the Senate president pro tempore then move into the vacant lieutenant governor’s position, senators temporarily elected Bryant as president pro tem so he could take the office. Bryant has spent the past 12 years as the senator for Senate District 3 in northern Anderson County.
— Candidates are already lining up to replace Bryant in the Senate — including former Clemson football coach Danny Ford. Ford, who won the 1981 national championship with the Tigers, told the Anderson Independent-Mail that he had been approached about running, but wanted to discuss it with his family before committing. Three Republicans — former Pendleton Mayor Carol Burdette, Powdersville businessman (and unsuccessful congressional candidate) Richard Cash and former state Rep. John Tucker Jr., — say they will definitely run for the Senate District 3 seat, which covers the northern half of Anderson County.
— A House committee has acted to address the problem of roads closed since October 2015’s record flooding because they travel across dams still indefinitely closed. The issue is that owners have not moved to repair the dams, which state roads often cross. The House agriculture committee approved a bill Wednesday that gives dam owners two months to say whether they will rebuild or repair the dams blasted by the 2015 flood — or whether they will abandon the structures. Owners of future dam breaches must come up with a plan within a year.
— A proposal that would have the governor appoint South Carolina’s schools chief instead of the public electing it has reached the state Senate floor. The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously advanced a proposed constitutional amendment to make the Education Superintendent an appointed position. If passed by both the Senate and House, the question would go to voters in a referendum next election. Supporters say the change would give the governor more control over education policy while other lawmakers worry about the potential for political appointees.
— A Senate panel heard from the public Thursday on a proposal to move South Carolina’s disabilities agency under the governor’s control. The Greenville News reports critics of the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) argue the agency is unaccountable and broken under its current structure, with dozens of cases of abuse and neglect among providers. But the agency’s backers say the issue is misconduct by some employees and providers, not the agency’s structure.
— A new report from the state Inspector General concluded the co-founder of a Spartanburg charter school enriched herself at the expense of the school. The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reports the Inspector General turned over its findings on High Point Academy CEO Lori Manning to the state Ethics Commission. Manning resigned as High Point’s CEO in October after being placed on leave in July. The report also recommends increased oversight of charter schools statewide to spot and prevent such mismanagement earlier in the process.
— More than 2,500 school choice advocates and students rallied at a Columbia theater on Wednesday to celebrate significant expansion among the educational options for children with special needs. The Palmetto Promise Institute helped sponsor the rally, which featured performances from students at various charter schools across the state. Supporters said alternatives like charter schools help to spark innovation for students who may not be comfortable in a traditional public school setting.