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#SealMageddon: Unconstitutional Bills Uncovered?

Dozens of laws failed to receive constitutionally required seal …

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Yesterday this news site exclusively reported on a scandal we’ve since christened #SealMageddon.”

What happened?  For an undetermined period of time (rumored to be several years), South Carolina’s Secretary of State Mark Hammond has allegedly failed to perform his constitutional duty of affixing the “Great Seal of the State” onto acts and resolutions passed by the S.C. General Assembly.

Ordinarily we’d have replied with a “yawn” and moved on … but according to the state constitution (Article III, Section 18), the great seal is, not unlike Ron Burgandy, “kind of a big deal.”

“No Bill or Joint Resolution shall have the force of law until it shall have been read three times and on three several days in each house, has had the Great Seal of the State affixed to it, and has been signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” that provision (.pdf) of the constitution reads.

(Emphasis added).

Uh-oh …

In a follow-up story published this morning, we noted that #SealMaggedon has been a closely guarded secret in the state capital for the past three months.  According to our sources, the problem was discovered three months ago when a defendant representing themselves (i.e. pro se) in a criminal case decided to visit the S.C. Department of Archives and History (SCDAH).

There, they discovered that the law they were accused of breaking did not have the “Great Seal of the State” affixed to it.

Again … uh-oh.

Our follow-up report also noted that state representative Joshua Putnam, who is running against Hammond in next spring’s GOP primary election for Secretary of State, made a trip to SCDAH this morning in an effort to get to the bottom of this situation.

Did Putnam find any acts and resolutions lacking the “Great Seal of the State?”

Yes … dozens …

(Click to view)

(Via: Joshua Putnam)

As noted in our prior coverage, the secretary of state is currently in possession of all acts and resolutions dating from 2005 to the present.  Acts and resolutions from previous years are stored at SCDAH.

Hammond is supposed to turn over acts and resolutions to SCDAH after five years (some say two years), but he apparently hasn’t been doing that either.  The most recent records available at the agency are for 2003 and 2004 – Hammond’s first two years in office.

In other words, there are at least eight years of records that should be at SCDAH … but aren’t.

Where are those acts and resolutions?  And do they also lack the “Great Seal of the State?”

Putnam reviewed the records for 2003 and 2004 and determined that “109 acts out of 440 didn’t receive the seal.”

In other words one out of every four acts ratified during those two years could be unconstitutional …

Here’s a look at the ratification numbers for the affected bills …

(Click to view)

(Via: Joshua Putnam)

Hammond acknowledged to reporter Andy Shain of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier that his office did not affix the seal to an unspecified number of bills, but argued that the laws are nonetheless “official” and that Putnam is using the issue in an attempt to discredit him politically.

“Can you imagine in how much power I would have if all I did was not affix the Great Seal?” Hammond told Shain.  “I would be the most powerful man in South Carolina.  These laws are official (without the seal), and I don’t think they should be used as a political football.”

Really?

That’s a troubling response, if you ask us.

If Hammond had done his job none of this would be an issue.  In fact, it’s pretty telling (and sadly typical of Palmetto politics) that his first impulse is not to take responsibility for his error – but to point the finger of blame somewhere else.

Developing …

***

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Banner: Joshua Putnam


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