It’s been a rough few days for South Carolina Senate minority leader Brad Hutto. Late last week, his endorsement of state senator Mia McLeod’s bid for governor of the Palmetto State was yanked from the internet after it sparked outrage among victims’ rights advocates.
Now, Hutto is at the heart of yet another South Carolina “status quo” saga – the debate over reforming the scandal-scarred board of trustees at the Palmetto State’s so-called ”flagship” institution of higher learning.
Readers will recall this board set itself on fire during the rigged search process that resulted in the hiring of its former president, retired U.S. Army general Robert Caslen. Caslen was controversially tapped for the South Carolina job after governor Henry McMaster – a member of this dysfunctional body – worked with powerful allies on the board to convince a narrow majority of trustees to appoint him.
This scandal-scarred search process – which enraged students, faculty and staff – nearly resulted in sanctions for the school. How did Caslen’s tenure at the school end? Not well. The 68-year-old Connecticut native was forced to resign from his post last May after this news outlet exclusively reported on allegations of plagiarism in a commencement address. More recently, trustees muffed the search process for Caslen’s successor.
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Presidential pooch-screws aside, the current crop of South Carolina trustees has presided over soaring tuition costs, unsustainable student debt, failed “economic development” deals and the ongoing indoctrination of future generations into the far left’s “new orthodoxy.”
They have also allowed the school’s athletic programs to backslide precipitously (with the exception of women’s basketball) – supporting failed athletics director Ray Tanner while demonstrating negligence of their own on the athletics front.
“The school’s board of trustees is doing its best impression of a dumpster fire careening out of control into an increasingly unruly rodeo of goats,” I wrote back in December.
House leaders – whose bark has historically been worse than their “bite” – responded to this ongoing dysfunction by blocking the nominations of incumbent trustees Charles H. Williams, C. Dorn Smith III, John C. von Lehe, Thad Westbrook and C. Edward “Eddie” Floyd.
All five of these men were running for reelection without opposition, making them “locks” to receive new four-year terms.
Not only that, House leaders have sponsored a bill – H. 5198 – which would trim the number of voting members from 22 to 13 and remove all current trustees from their posts no later than June 30, 2023. Lawmakers would elect eleven of the thirteen seats on the new board (seven from the state’s current congressional districts and four at-large seats), with the governor choosing the other two seats.
House leaders were so motivated to get this bill signed into law they bypassed the typical committee process and approved it via a floor vote on April 6, 2022. With outgoing speaker of the House Jay Lucas and incoming speaker Murrell Smith whipping votes, the measure passed by a 112-1 margin.
Is the House bill real reform? Not really. It reshuffles the deck – that’s about it. What the bill would do, though, is kick the current crop of trustees out of office – something that should have been done years ago.
This is where Hutto enters the story …
According to my sources, Hutto has “put his name” on the House bill. For those of you unfamiliar with this Revolutionary War-era method of parliamentary obstruction, putting one’s name on a bill basically blocks it from being heard on the floor of the chamber until the senator doing the blocking allows it to be heard.
“In order to overcome a senator putting his or her name on a bill, two-thirds of the chamber must agree to set the legislation in question for what is called ‘special order’ – which means assigning it a coveted position atop the Senate calendar typically reserved for high-profile issues,” I noted a few years back in explaining this process.
Beyond the obvious difficulty associated with getting two-thirds of the Senate to agree on anything, senators are reluctant to clog up their calendar – which can only accommodate three special order bills at any given time. They are also very reluctant to take power away from their fellow senators – because it means those senators would likely not support them in the event they want to block a bill in the future.
Accordingly, when a senator “puts their name” on a bill more often than not … it is dead.
Only high-profile bills with significant groundswells of public support (or significant special interest backing) can hope to overcome such obstructionism.
Why is Hutto blocking this bill? Does he philosophically object to what the House has proposed?
No … according to my sources, Hutto has made it abundantly clear to his House colleagues he is holding up the bill because the founding partner at his law firm is one of the five trustees who would lose their powerful perch if the legislation were to pass.
Yeah … good ol’ boys gonna good ol’ boy.
While I rebuke Hutto for his shamelessly self-serving obstructionism, the bottom line is this bill – while useful in removing inept trustees – does nothing to address the long-term issues associated with government involvement in higher education. As I have been saying for years, higher education is simply not a core function of government.
It must be privatized – completely, permanently and immediately.
“No more government appropriations, period,” I wrote back in 2018. “Furthermore, student loans in this country must be issued based on what the market determines to be an acceptable level of risk, not a federal guarantee. Anything short of this will only add more destructive force to a ticking time bomb that has become an existential threat to the American economy.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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