DEBATE SEATING SNAFU SPILLS OVER INTO LEGISLATIVE FIGHT
FITSNews – May 16, 2007 – We’ll grant you this – the fact that a couple of State Senators got booted from a row of seats “reserved” for S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford at last night’s GOP Presidential debate probably isn’t newsworthy. Well, no more newsworthy than a tree falling in the woods, anyway. Of course, when the incident sparks a full scale meltdown between two branches of state government and eliminates any chance at forging a compromise on what some view as a critical reform bill, it becomes a little more than just ruffled feathers.
Last night’s episode of “Musical Chairs” reportedly got started when an aide to Sanford staffer Marisa Crawford allowed Senators Hugh Leatherman and Harvey Peeler, among others, to sit in a row of seats marked simply as “reserved.” Reserved for whom, though? Apparently, the governor’s office – which was initially given 20 seats at the debate but ended up requesting 40 seats to accomodate all of Sanford’s “friends” – got rather testy with the Senators, who were initially reluctant to give up seats that they assumed had been reserved for them. We can’t confirm this, but our guess is Sen. Leatherman was the most miffed because he’s like two feet tall and has a hard time seeing over people’s heads.
Fast-forward to this morning, when the Department of Transportation reform bill that Sanford has been repeatedly blasting the Senate on for weeks came up for debate. When Senate staff called the governor’s office to complain (and to hint not-so-subtly that any compromise on the bill was as good as dead), they were reportedly told that the previous evening’s seating indignity was not only an intentional slap in the face but (sarcastically speaking) “thanks to all your hard work on transportation reform.” Then the governor’s office reportedly hung up the phone on Senate staff.
To say tempers flared at this point is an understatement. A sign was even placed on the governor’s reserved seat in the back of the Senate Chamber this morning indicating that it was now “Reserved for the Majority Leader.”
Eventually, Sanford’s office apologized to the Senators individually for the whole episode, but now attention seems to be focused on who was so important that the two most powerful Republicans in the State Senate had to be brusquely removed from their seats?
It’s too early to determine what the fallout from the governor’s latest brou-ha-ha with the General Assembly will be – nor is it immediately clear whether the bad blood will have any impact on an already worthless Transportation reform bill that nobody outside of the S.C. State House seems to care one lick about.
What we do know is that if South Carolinians thought their elected leaders were actually governing this week (for a change) … think again.
Welcome to South Carolina, people. Feel free to find a seat wherever you like …