Those folks at the Statehouse don't often find consensus -- sometimes they can't even agree on when to break for lunch.

So it was extremely telling last week that both the House and Senate voted unanimously to strip the Department of Health and Environmental Control of its power to issue dredging permits for the Savannah River.

Nothing like sabotaging the state economy and putting one of our rivers on life support to engender a little bipartisanship.

You may remember that DHEC initially denied Georgia's request to dredge the river to a depth that would give it a sizeable lead in the ports race. Then Gov. Nikki Haley asked her board to take another look, and DHEC miraculously found a solution that allowed it to approve the permit.

Since that time, you've had Democrats lamenting the potential harm to the economy and Republicans fretting about the danger to the environment. And vice versa, of course.

They not only agree, they agree on the reasons. That's refreshing.

The fact that lawmakers are in 100 percent agreement is proof that something smells here -- and it ain't dead fish.

Incompetence in action

House Speaker Bobby Harrell is proud of his troops on this one, as he should be. Shortly after DHEC approved the permit, board members were hauled before a committee to explain themselves. It wasn't pretty.

"The DHEC commissioners were not able to answer questions about the science," Harrell said. "If you are going to overrule the original staff recommendation, they ought to understand the science. It was just astounding to us."

At the time, DHEC board Chairman Allen Amsler said they didn't overturn staff, that instead, "the parties resolved the differences that were outlined in documentation from DHEC staff to the Georgia Ports Authority."

Basically, Georgia agreed to put the equivalent of fish tank bubblers in the river to make sure there was enough oxygen for the fish. Which Harrell, like most reasonable people, finds ludicrous. Not to mention the fact that this dredging would come perilously close to the aquifer that supplies water to Beaufort and Hilton Head. One breach, and half the Lowcountry is drinking brackish water.

"The environment is DHEC's primary responsibility, and they do this?" Harrell said. "That's incompetence."

Parlor games

The Columbia parlor game of the moment is trying to guess what Haley will do next: veto this (risking the embarrassment of a certain override); flip-flop and sign it; or quietly allow it to become law without her signature.

These guys have quit trying to figure her out. But you can rest assured if Haley vetoes this resolution, it will be overridden faster than one of those private jets that hauls Haley to out-of-state fundraisers.

Of course, the opportunistic Haley could turn the tables and proclaim she has done something none of her predecessors could: She has brought bipartisanship to the Statehouse.

Which is true, because both sides agree -- you can't trust her, or her DHEC board.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@post