UPDATE Voters ignored on succession

November 21, 2016

Inside Insight

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By HANNAH HILL

leatherman1 (1)

No wonder everybody’s confused

Nov. 28, 2016, 3:36 p.m.: In 2012, when voters approved the constitutional amendment placing the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket, it stated that changes regarding the succession of lieutenant governor and governor would take effect in 2018. When the legislature actually amended the constitution, however, it omitted the dates – making the changes effective immediately. Lawmakers may have intended the change to take effect in 2018, but what found its way into the constitution – by negligence or design – is an effective date of 2014. 
—Phillip Cease

What happens if Governor Nikki Haley leaves office before the end of her term? What if Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster also does? Who would be governor then?

Those questions have been raised over the last several days along with speculation about posts in the Trump administration – and some insiders are getting them wrong.

Before 2014, South Carolina’s constitution required that in the absence of a lieutenant governor, the Senate president pro tempore would give up his seat and serve as lieutenant governor. If both Haley and McMaster resigned, Senator Hugh Leatherman as Senate president would have been required to give up his Senate seat to become governor. The Senate would then elect a new president, who would also give up his Senate seat, to become lieutenant governor.

That year, however, the constitution was amended. Now it stipulates that if the governor is unable to serve, the lieutenant governor takes her place and nominates his own lieutenant governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.

To find out what happens if the line of succession needs to go further than the lieutenant governor, you have to look at the law, not the constitution, which states that if both the governor and lieutenant governor are unable to serve, the Senate president will “perform the duties and exercise the powers of governor” until the next election. If he cannot serve, the speaker of the House would. If neither of them can serve, the General Assembly elects a new governor.

In other words, today, with Haley and McMaster both gone, Leatherman would assume the powers and duties of the governor without having to give up his position as Senate president.

The Senate president already has considerable power, including a seat on the five-member State Fiscal Accountability Authority governing panel, which makes bonding and financial decisions for the state; the ability to appoint two of the 10 members of the Joint Transportation Review Committee, which screens and nominates DOT Commissioners; and the ability to appoint two of the ten members of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, which nominates judges for election by the General Assembly.

There already are 64 board, commission, or committee positions connected to the Senate president, and the current president also chairs the Senate finance committee.

If both the governor and lieutenant governor should leave, he’d control all three branches of government.

  • Steve Haynie

    So now the question is, who would the Legislature put in place as Governor to spread propaganda in support of their corrupt behavior?

    • Erin Lester

      yep….

  • Dan Ruck

    Written by somebody who doesn’t even know what the three branches of government are. Obviously a SC school graduate. Or, more likely, a dropout. Anyway, the answer is things will continue to get worse. McMaster leaving the state would be a blessing, of course, and no one will even notice if Haley is gone. What few Dems there are don’t have the guts to defend civility in the courts, the third branch of government. We’re going the way of Kansas…that is, down a rat hole.

    • Gil Jackson

      Did you even read the piece, Dan?

    • Internet Operative

      Why so angry?

    • Marion1

      How do you derive at the conclusion that the writer does not know what the three branches of government are?

  • Brian Barnes

    Sorry, but incorrect!!! The changes don’t take effect until the general election of 2018. Read and follow the grammar. The successor to Lt. Gov. change will take place after the joint ticket election. Leatherman will have to step down or take it!!!

    • Walter Mills

      Wrong. Section 11, last sentence. Takes effect May 29, 2014.

      • Brian Barnes

        The Lt. Gov. is not resigning he is constitutionally ascending. That isn’t covered in Section 11. But I do admit I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently.

        • Walter Mills

          I know I ain’t an educated boy, but I ain’t never heard of no constitutional ascension. Is that a thing? Anyhow, if it’s as obvious as you say, Brian, why are lawmakers scrambling to try and interpret the new provision according to their “intention” rather than according to the text? They sound sooooo disingenuous. http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article116675863.html

    • Henry Lane

      Brian, I thought you were right but you aren’t. The SC Constitution – where this process is outlined – clearly says that that section takes place May 29, 2014.

    • Brian Barnes

      Ok, just for fun. The wording used to dictate succession of the SC Constitution is different from the Presidential US Constitution Ammendment 25. US specifies “whenever” Vice President is vacant…SC has qualifiers for vacancy. I would say that is intentional on the part of the SC drafters because SC never ratified Amendment 25 so why follow it?

  • Erin Lester

    Control all three branches? That is insane.

    • Marion1

      Yes, because unlike other states, our judges are appointed as opposed to elected as they should be.

  • Marion1

    Four branches…and it seems highly contrived. Packing to go North.

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