Government reform is a tenuous route to travel in South Carolina, as demonstrated by a Senate vote to allow candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a ticket. The bill would give voters the long overdue opportunity to decide the issue in November, but wouldn’t make the change until another six years have passed — 2018.
If the voters want the governor and lieutenant governor to run on a ticket in the general election, much as the president and vice president do at the national level, the Legislature should make the change effective at the next general election after that referendum — 2014.
The objections of a single senator — Jake Knotts, R-Lexington — could hold up the matter for another four years. Sen. Knotts contends, unpersuasively, that the delay would give the matter a better chance to pass a statewide referendum.
More likely, it relates to his animus toward Gov. Nikki Haley, with whom he has previously clashed. At one point, Sen. Knotts described Mrs. Haley as a “raghead” because of her Sikh origins. The delay would deny her the chance to pick a running mate if she runs for re-election.
Gov. Haley correctly described the delay tactic as “personal politics” and chided the Senate for letting Mr. Knotts have his way. The Senate gave final approval to the proposal on Wednesday.
Under the legislation, each party’s candidate for governor in the general election would choose his or her running mate.
The House has repeatedly passed legislation in favor of the idea, most recently last year. It favors the 2014 date.
The bill would ensure that the governor and the lieutenant governor belong to the same political party. (There have been two instances in the last 20 years when the governor and lieutenant governor were members of different parties.)
And it would ensure that the candidates share the same platform. It would guarantee greater continuity in the policy arena if the lieutenant governor were to replace the chief executive in the middle of a term.
The bill also would allow the governor to select a replacement for lieutenant governor if he — or she — leaves office in mid-term. Further, it would eliminate the lieutenant governor’s role as presiding officer of the state Senate, allowing instead the Senate to choose that officer from among its membership.
Currently, the Senate president pro tempore succeeds the lieutenant governor if he leaves office during his term, as occurred this year after Ken Ard left in disgrace. The bill would change the rules of succession that now require the Senate president pro tempore from having to trade down from that powerful position to the comparatively weak position of lieutenant governor.
Glenn McConnell reluctantly gave up his Senate seat in March to take over as lieutenant governor under the current rules.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, acknowledged that he backed an effective date of 2014 for the party ticket, assuming approval by the voters. But he agreed to the Knotts’ amendment to get the bill passed.
“This was a way to advance the ball,” Sen. Martin said.
There’s no good reason for the ball to move ever so slowly on this important change.
The House should insist on an earlier effective date when it considers the Senate bill.