South Carolina state senators have voted to change their rules now that the lieutenant governor will no longer preside over the chamber.
The Senate on Tuesday unanimously voted to create a new “Senate President” position which will oversee debate, as the lieutenant governor once did. Senators then chose longtime senior State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, to be the first to hold the job. He was the only senators to seek the post.
“We have work to do,” Peeler said in his acceptance speech. “You chose me to be your leader. And, so help me God, lead you I will.”
Peeler will take over the presiding duties which had been handled by the lieutenant governor. Under the new rules, Peeler will be barred from chairing any standing committees which advance bills. He will, however, chair a new Senate Oversight Committee to review various government agencies and operations.
Supporters hope the new position will help ease the perception — which many senators themselves often complain — that power is too centralized in the Senate. Previously, State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, chaired the Senate’s budgetwriting committee and played a role in floor debate as president pro tempore. Leatherman will remain the Senate Finance Committee chair this year.
“I think what you’ll see is more people participating in the decision-making process, more people at the table on decisions,” Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said. “Which I think is going to be a great thing overall because you’re going to have more views represented.”
Peeler is the Senate’s senior Republican, having first been elected in 1981 and switching from the Democratic Party in 1989 (Leatherman also came to the Senate as a Democrat in 1989, but did not switch parties until 1995).