Bills aim to rework structure of state offices

He has served in the S.C. House for barely a month, but Rep. Tom Young, R-Aiken, is co-sponsoring some bills that potentially could have a huge impact on state politics.

Young and Rep. Ted Pitts, R-Lexington, have introduced legislation in the House that would call for gubernatorial nominees to name following the primaries a running mate to serve as lieutenant governor. Currently, candidates for that post run in separate elections from the gubernatorial candidates.

Perhaps even more significantly, Young has introduced and gotten co-sponsors for a measure that could result in up to six constitutional offices becoming positions appointed by the governor.

While this effort is hardly new, the freshman House member’s approach is different: He is filing separate bills for each of the six offices.

“In the past (legislation), all the offices were lumped together,” Young said. “Some people might think four of six should be appointed, but not all six. This provides an up or down vote for each office.”

If all the bills get through the General Assembly this year, they would go on the general election ballot as constitutional amendments in 2010. If approved by voters, the legislation would take effect in 2014.

The constitutional offices impacted by the legislative measures include superintendent of education, adjutant general, secretary of state, agriculture commission, comptroller general and state treasurer. The positions of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general would be not affected by the bills.

“The chief prosecuting officer of the state needs to be accountable to the people,” Young said. “Of the legislators I talked with, nobody said to add that office to the list.”

Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, said he supports Young’s efforts. The combined ticket of a governor and lieutenant governor would provide a closer working relationship. In the past, those office-holders have been members of different parties, Smith said.

“I think it’s probably in the best interest of the state for the governor and lieutenant governor to be philosophically aligned,” said Young. “It’s best for them to run as a ticket, frankly as it’s done in other states.”

The other bills impacting the constitutional offices should gain traction this year, he said. Young is part of a 23-member freshman class, nearly one-fifth of the 124-member House.

“Our class is emphasizing restructuring state government as one of the areas we want to focus on,” he said. “There’s really a movement afoot beyond the freshman class to restructure other areas of state government.”

When most people enter a voting booth, said Young, many have no idea who’s running for comptroller general, secretary of state and the other constitutional offices.

“It’s in the state’s best interests to allow the governor to have those positions as part of his cabinet and give him the power to appoint those positions,” Young said. “In most states and at the national level, the chief executive officer appoints the head of the education department. We ought to be moving in that direction in South Carolina.”

Any change in the constitutional offices shouldn’t be approved or rejected in consideration of current governor Mark Sanford, Young said.

“He won’t be in office when these changes are in place,” Young said. “This is how we can make state government run more efficiently and become more accountable, by giving the governor more authority. We have one of the weakest governors in the nation, as we are a legislative state and have been since 1895. This is an effort to get beyond that.”

Young said he has signed on for a number of other bills. One would create a Department of Administration that would take control of certain offices from the legislature. Another measure would give the governor control of the S.C. Employment Security Commission.

Other proposed legislation would cap state budget spending to population growth and the consumer price index; increase the general reserve to provide a larger “rainy day” fund; and create a commission to look at a tax code overhaul.

Aiken Standard

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