Sanford: Pyrotechnic Bill Usurps Executive Power

July 5, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveA bill involving a little-known state board, vetoed by Gov. Mark Sanford but overridden by the General Assembly, could further erode the limited power of the state’s executive branch, some believe.

Among items included in Bill S. 454 is a provision that increases the number of members for the S.C. Board of Pyrotechnic Safety from six to seven and also specifies a time limit by which board vacancies must be filled.

Sanford took issue with the manner in which the measure designates the handling of board vacancies.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, states that all seven members are to be appointed by the governor but adds that if the governor does not fill a vacancy within 60 days, it must be filled through an appointment by the chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, and the chairman of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.

“It would take from what little power is vested in the governorship of South Carolina and allocate it to the Legislature,” Sanford’s veto reads.

Members of state boards and commissions – which range from postings on university boards to more remote boards such as the State Board of Cosmetology or the Council on the Holocaust – generally are appointed by the governor, about half of which require Senate confirmation.

State lawmakers, either as the entire General Assembly or by a specific legislative delegation, also make some appointments.

The pyrotechnic safety board is composed of seven members appointed by the governor.

However, with literally thousands of state and local appointments the governor is responsible for filling, hundreds of openings come up each year. Performing due diligence on these openings is a time-consuming process, Sanford spokesman Ben Fox said.

The Senate overrode Sanford’s veto of S. 454, 31-9, while the House voted 62-6 to override. The bill makes the pyrotechnic safety board the only oversight body in the state whose members must be appointed within a set timeframe.

Peeler could not be reached for comment.

While the executive branch makes more than 1,500 appointments to more than 300 statewide boards, the pyrotechnic safety board has been neglected, according to Jerry Wingard, the program director for the board.

Currently, the pyrotechnic safety board has just three members – all appointed more than a decade ago. John Armstrong, Larry Godfrey and Brian Mixon have all continued to serve even though their terms expired in 2002, Wingard said.

Former board Chairman Walker Kirby died in January of this year and the most recent appointee, George Martin, named to the board in 2002, resigned in order to be appointed to the Richland County Recreation Commission Board of Commissioners in early 2008.

“It’s been difficult not having any new board members for so long,” Wingard said. “Without fresh people you don’t get fresh ideas. This will give other people a chance to serve, as well.”

A danger inherent in having a set deadline by which board appointments must be made is that appointments might have to be hurried through or they would fall to the legislature.

“We share with many a real concern that this type of legislation could well open the door to even more political and legislatively controlled board appointments, effectively nibbling away at South Carolina government’s separation of powers and shifting the state into an even more legislatively dominant position,” Fox said.

Five years ago, Sanford vetoed a bill that would have added two lay members to the state Board of Medical Examiners, one who would have been appointed upon the recommendation of the president pro tempore of the Senate and the other upon the recommendation of the speaker of the House.

“In the same way, S. 454 infringes upon the executive branch’s appointment power by placing a limit on the amount of time that a governor has to consider a board appointment,” Sanford’s veto said.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or at kevin@scpolicycouncil.com.