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Caucus Report 8 – Government Reform

The following update is the official weekly report of the Republican House Caucus –

The South Carolina House voted to consolidate more of our state’s administrative power in the hands of the Governor this past week by approving three major restructuring bills.

Restructuring our state government has been something the House Republicans have struggled with for more than a decade. With the results of November’s elections still fresh in people’s minds, my Republican colleagues hope this is the year these reforms are finally enacted.

These three restructuring bills are yet another piece of our conservative reform agenda that we have approved this year – joining tort reform, the Higher Education Transparency Act, Voter ID, charter school reform, the Repeal Amendment, and roll call voting.

The first piece of legislation approved Wednesday moves fourteen divisions of the Budget and Control Board to a new department: general services, employee insurance programs, the State Information Technology Division, procurement services, veterans’ affairs, Office of Executive Policy, and the state energy office, among others.  These offices largely provide administrative or inter-governmental services, rather than providing services directly to the people of South Carolina.

Legislation creating a Department of Administration was approved by the House in 2004, 2008, and 2009.

The Department of Administration will give our Governor more power over the executive branch of government that she heads. This bill is a major first step in strengthening our state’s chief executive.

Whether we enact the next two reforms that we approved this week is entirely up to you – the voter.

The House voted for a constitutional amendment that will give voters the right to decide if the Governor and Lieutenant Governor should run on the same ticket. A second amendment let voters decide if the state Superintendent of Education should be appointed by the governor and not elected. If these are approved by the Senate, they will appear on the ballot in November 2012.

Roughly half of the state’s general fund budget pays for K-12 Education, making it important that the state Superintendent of Education has the same agenda as the Governor. Anybody who pays attention to politics knows that education is a key issue in every governor’s race – despite the fact that the governor has virtually no control over our state’s public schools. This needs to be fixed.

The lieutenant governor is currently elected separately from the governor. The person “one heart beat” away from the governor’s mansion could be a different party, or have an entirely different agenda. Given the lack of overall power in the lieutenant governor’s office, it only makes sense that they run as a ticket rather than separately.

The bottom line about the House’s action this week is this: There are good people who disagree about whether our Constitutional Officers should be appointed by the governor – as many of them are in other states – or elected by the people. The legislation supported by the House Republicans this week only gives the ultimate power to decide that question to the people. That’s the right thing to do, and the voters will settle this debate once and for all.

The House Republicans have ushered through similar resolutions on various constitutional officers during every session since 2004. None of them have ever been approved by the state Senate.

There is only one more week before the full House debates the budget, and we have a number of other agenda items on the House calendar – including the Taxpayer Fairness Act and the House Republicans’ seventh attempt at enacting a state spending limit.