South Carolina governor Henry McMaster was livid at the state’s scandal-scarred, government-run utility Santee Cooper after its leaders threw a monkey wrench into last week’s emergency session of the S.C. General Assembly.
To recap: Lawmakers met briefly amid the coronavirus pandemic in the hopes of approving an emergency spending resolution and a rules package governing their schedule for the rest of the year. Why were these actions necessary? Because the worsening impact of the pandemic on the state’s economy is already sending state revenues through the floor – forcing lawmakers into a position where they will have to reassess spending later this year (including the likely need to sell Santee Cooper to plug a massive hole in the budget).
Leaders in the S.C. House of Representatives and State Senate had (wisely) reached an agreement to leave that option on the table pending the next meeting of the legislative branch of government … but a clique of state senators loyal to the debt-addled, state-owned utility gummed up the works.
The senators – including Stephen Goldfinch, Larry Grooms, Brad Hutto, Luke Rankin and Nikki Setzler – refused to consider any short-term emergency deal that preserved legislative flexibility regarding the disposition of Santee Cooper.
Basically, these lawmakers played along with an effort by Santee Cooper’s leaders to manipulate a public health crisis to further ensconce this “rogue agency” under the auspices of state government.
It worked, too. Due to the clique of lawmakers referenced above, the Senate refused to adopt the agreement negotiated by its own leaders – resulting in the failure of the emergency session to accomplish either of its two objectives.
McMaster was livid, accusing Santee Cooper of “exploiting the pandemic to maintain the status quo.”
“There appears to be no tactic or action too deceitful or reckless for the leaders of Santee Cooper to employ,” McMaster wrote on Facebook.
We agree … and so did leaders in the S.C. House, who assailed the utility for its “arrogance” and “deceit.”
This week, McMaster has stepped up his involvement in the process – sending a letter announcing his intention to call lawmakers back to Columbia, S.C. to accomplish the business they failed to accomplish last week.
“I will call the General Assembly into session before the end of this fiscal year on a date and time of your choosing, for the purpose of passing a continuing resolution for the operation of state government,” McMaster wrote.
Take a look …
(Click to view)
(Via: S.C. Governor)
In his letter, McMaster said he intended to call lawmakers back “before the end of this fiscal year” – which is June 30, 2020.
“By late June, (the coronavirus) risk will have diminished to the extent that businesses and activities in our state may be safely resumed,” he wrote.
That still gives lawmakers time to meet on their own, though … as the legislature is technically still in session.
As it stands now, lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the year in the middle of May. However, because they have passed no resolution to adjourn there is nothing governing their future deliberations. If they address the terms of adjournment prior to McMaster’s call, they will be governed by that agreement.
If not, in the words of one lobbyist, it will be “the wild, wild west.”
“He is saying you take care of your business or I will take care of your business,” one leader in the S.C. House of Representatives told us, referring to McMaster’s missive. “His letter was a shot across the bow of the Senate.”
Typically, lawmakers pass what is called a sine die resolution (Latin for “without day”) that delineates which matters they can discuss in future sessions. Such a resolution was one of the items torpedoed by the Santee Cooper machinations. The other item was a continuing resolution that would have funded state government at its current levels until lawmakers were able to meet again to review the latest budget numbers.
According to our sources, the current plan is for lawmakers to approve some form of continuing resolution prior to June 30 and address the state’s budget in more detail sometime in the fall. Of course that assumes lawmakers – especially senators – are capable of coming to an agreement.
Right now that looks like a dubious proposition … again, all because of Santee Cooper (an asset the state should have rid itself of decades ago).
We support McMaster in his efforts to hold the legislature – and specifically the Senate – accountable. Similarly, we support ongoing efforts by leaders in the S.C. House of Representatives to hold Santee Cooper accountable for its latest deception – as well as the multi-billion dollar NukeGate deception that preceded it.
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