After a South Carolina Supreme Court decision ruled Gov. Henry McMaster could make a controversial recess appointment to South Carolina’s state-owned power utility Santee Cooper, senators say they want to limit when and how the governor could make such moves in the future.
The group of senators led by Senate President Hugh Leatherman and Judiciary Committee Chairman Luke Rankin filed legislation this week which would prevent the governor from appointing agency heads while the Senate is out of session if the office had already been vacant the year before.
The proposal comes after McMaster tapped former state Attorney General Charlie Condon to chair Santee Cooper, despite that senators had not acted on his appointment during their session. The position came open late last year after previous chair Leighton Lord resigned several in the aftermath of a failed nuclear construction project. McMaster chose Condon as his replacement for Lord, but Senate leaders did not approve or reject him before the session ended in June (the Governor’s Office has hinted they believe the move was intentional).
After the Senate did not confirm Condon, McMaster cited the state constitution to note the governor could make a recess appointment to agency posts which were open while senators are not in session. Leatherman and others sued, insisting the law was meant for newly-open positions.
The state Supreme Court ultimately backed McMaster and ruled Condon could temporarily serve as chairman at least until lawmakers return to Columbia in January.
Leatherman and other key senators are distrustful of Condon, believing he will follow McMaster’s support to sell Santee Cooper to help pay off $8 billion in the utility’s debt. Lawmakers will study potential sale offers later next month.