Restructuring won't be easy

COLUMBIA - On the surface, restructuring South Carolina government would seem like an easy go.


The issue has the backing, for starters, of Gov. Mark Sanford, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell and House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

It made the cut into Mr. Sanford's inaugural address and onto Mr. Harrell's priority list.

And, weeks before the legislative session began, Mr. McConnell filed six resolutions to change the constitution to make the superintendent of education, secretary of state, adjutant general, comptroller general, state treasurer and commissioner of agriculture governor-appointed - not popularly elected - positions.

He's also proposed having the governor and lieutenant governor run for election together, on the same ticket.

"The question becomes, 'Do you let the people vote on the structure of (government) management?'" Mr. McConnell said.

Days into the start of the legislative session, however, Mr. McConnell is among those supporters acknowledging that some proposals will be a tough sell.

Among the biggest hurdles, Mr. McConnell said, is convincing the public there's a reason to care.

Mr. Sanford says the reason is efficiency and accountability.

"A constitutional construct put in place when neither black people nor women could participate in our political system is an outdated construct," the governor said in his inaugural address.

"It is inefficient, and in the competitive world in which we live this bridles economic opportunity and it continues to hold us back," he said.

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said the governor is held responsible for the state of South Carolina's educational system.

Yet the governor doesn't get to choose the superintendent of education, the person who oversees the state's public schools, Mr. Sawyer said.

Finding a structure on which a majority of senators, representatives and Mr. Sanford can agree likely will be difficult.

And passing the constitutional resolutions - each of which requires a two-thirds majority approval from each chamber to get on the ballot in 2008 - might prove impossible.

There is significant support among lawmakers for changing the state Department of Transportation, especially since the November release of a Legislative Audit Council report that alleged mismanagement and waste of taxpayer money.

A House committee on Thursday announced initial support for a new leadership structure in the Transportation Department, but a Senate committee studying the same issue hasn't progressed much.

As for approving the constitutional provisions, Mr. McConnell admits it will be hard.

Previous attempts got stuck in committee, in both the House and the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, exemplifies the struggle. He is fine with making some of the positions appointed - but not adjutant general.

The adjutant general leads the South Carolina Army National Guard - and National Guard members want the right to choose their leader, Mr. Peeler said.

Other groups of lawmakers feel the same way about the superintendent of education. Or secretary of state. Or state treasurer.

And when those lawmakers coalesce, agreeing to vote "no" on one proposal in exchange for a "no" vote on another, getting a two-thirds majority for passage becomes extremely difficult, Mr. McConnell said.

Success, he said, will depend on whether lawmakers come to the conclusion that Mr. Peeler has reached: the issue should be put to a public vote.

Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or


Among the governor's restructuring proposals:

- Making the Department of Transportation a Cabinet-level agency

- Creating a Department of Administration to take over the current functions of the Budget and Control Board

- Restructuring the health care, environmental, correctional, and literary and cultural agencies for a total annual savings of $19 million, according to the governor

- Morris News Service