Breaking the succession impasse
Let's hear it for state Sen. Yancey McGill, who appears to have settled the succession issue for lieutenant governor by agreeing to take the job. The Williamsburg Democrat would be the first of his party to serve as lieutenant governor since Nick Theodore finished his second term in the office in 1995. He also would become the only Democrat among the state's constitutional officers.
There was some discussion late Tuesday about a GOP senator making a bid for the lieutenant governor's job. But assuming that Sen. McGill isn't challenged today, his decision will mean the end of his 26-year Senate career. He would cap it off, incidentally, by becoming Senate president pro tempore ever so briefly as he gets in line for the lieutenant governor's job. He would serve as lieutenant governor only until January.
The state constitution determines the line of succession from the Senate leadership position, one of the most powerful in state government, to the fairly weak lieutenant governor. The previous Senate president pro tem, John Courson, resigned from the job rather than become lieutenant governor.
Sen. Courson, a Richland Republican, won't be a candidate for Senate president pro tem after the succession issue is settled. So far, Sens. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, and Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, have expressed interest in the position.
One important effect of Sen. McGill's decision will be to free Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell to resign the position as he prepares to take over the helm at the College of Charleston on July 1. There was some suggestion that Mr. McConnell should keep the lieutenant governor's job while serving as president of the C of C. Mr. McConnell wasn't interested, and that untenable solution thankfully is now off the table.
Chances are the constitutional issue of succession and the game of musical chairs that has followed won't happen again. Gubernatorial candidates will make the call on their running mates for the 2018 election, and the governor subsequently will be able to fill the lieutenant governor's job should it become vacant.
It's a good example for putting logical proposals for government restructuring to the voters to amend the South Carolina Constitution as needed.
The voters endorsed the pending shift in the selection of the lieutenant governor candidates in 2012, to be effective six years later. This November, voters will decide whether the governor should appoint the adjutant general, head of the state National Guard, as in 49 other states.
Still on the to-do list for reform are giving voters the opportunity to decide whether the state's chief executive should name the superintendent of education and agriculture secretary.
Change often takes a long time to achieve in South Carolina, though not always.
Sen. McGill, for example, would make the transition from senator to Senate president pro tem to lieutenant governor in the twinkling of an eye.