It was a moot point after Democrats in the S.C. House of Representatives refused to support the issue, but S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s watered-down government restructuring legislation was also defeated on Tuesday by the “Republican-controlled” S.C. Senate.
Haley supporters led by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler fell six votes shy of receiving the two-thirds majority they needed to take up the bill – which was the focus of a major constitutional drama earlier this month. Two-thirds majorities of both the House and Senate were required to consider the bill because lawmakers are in a special session devoted to passing the state budget and drawing new legislative and congressional districts.
Barring some sort of Lazarus-style miracle, that means there will be no S.C. Department of Administration – or government restructuring of any kind – this year.
Obviously, that’s a major defeat for Haley – who cut a backroom deal with Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman in the hopes of getting a quick win through the S.C. General Assembly this year. It’s also a major defeat for taxpayers – who saw their hopes for real reform go up in smoke due to Haley’s desire to cut a deal and claim a purely political victory for herself.
Furious over the collapse of her agreement with Leatherman, Haley called lawmakers into an emergency session earlier this month and demanded that they pass her version of the bill. The S.C. Supreme Court blocked Haley’s effort, though, a process that strained her relationships not only with legislative leaders – but also with fiscally conservative Republicans in the S.C. Senate.
In fact, multiple lawmakers tell FITS that Haley blatantly misled them during the special session drama.
On this issue we’re much less concerned with the political drama and more concerned with the policy, though … and on that count, Haley lost this battle before it even began.
For starters, the Haley-Leatherman plan preserved the existence of the S.C. Budget and Control Board – a quasi-executive, quasi-legislative entity that performs the majority of the state’s executive branch functions. It would have also taken agencies that ought to be in the governor’s cabinet – like the State Energy Office – and handed them over to commissions of unelected bureaucrats beholden to specific special interests.
Some of those special interests, not coincidentally in our opinion, have been lining Haley’s pockets with campaign contributions in recent months.
In contrast to the Haley-Leatherman plan, S.C. Sen. Tom Davis has been consistently pushing a strong restructuring bill that does eliminate the S.C. Budget and Control Board and restore key executive functions to the governor’s cabinet.
Davis tells FITS he will be pushing these same reforms when the bill comes up for debate again – which at this point is looking like it will be next January.
While we opposed Haley’s watered-down administrative reforms, we supported her efforts to pass a pair of other recycled Mark Sanford reforms – the right of governors to appoint their lieutenant governors and superintendents of education. In fact, we would once again strongly urge the S.C. Senate to pass these two pieces of legislation – which have already cleared the S.C. House.
Lawmakers and Haley have gotten precious little accomplished this year – and it would be nice to get a pair of common sense reforms signed into law before the session ends.