Despite the passage of Home Rule nearly 40 years ago, local legislators still can’t resist the urge to meddle. That’s why they gave the chairman and vice chairman of the Charleston County Legislative Delegation seats on the Charleston County Aviation Authority in a 2007 bill.
A citizens’ challenge to that ill-considered decision awaits the review of the state Supreme Court. But if a Senate proposal becomes law, it won’t be necessary.
Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, recently amended a House bill to take legislators off the authority, recognizing the validity of the numerous objections to the practice. The main purpose of the House bill is to correct an error in last year’s aeronautics act that inadvertently removed the mayor of North Charleston from the Aviation Authority.
Unfortunately, House members failed to concur with Sen. Grooms’ amendment, and the bill is headed to a conference committee next week.
“It should be settled in court,” insists Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston. Rep. Limehouse is chairman of the legislative delegation and, as such, serves on the Aviation Authority. So he is not exactly a disinterested party.
In contrast, Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, has refused his seat on the authority, to which he is entitled as vice chairman of the delegation. Sen. Campsen says that the legislative appointments are unconstitutional in two ways:
As dual office holding, they are not permitted by the state constitution. And they violate the constitutional separation of powers, which prohibits legislators from executing the laws they pass.
The legal challenge pending before the Supreme Court makes those points, and notes that local legislation also is prohibited by law.
House conferees should relent and endorse Sen. Grooms’ amendment. Local legislators created the problem. Now they have an opportunity to fix it.