Stimulus, mistrust could alter adjournment plan

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina legislators might have found another way to get under Gov. Mark Sanford's skin: sticking around indefinitely.


The Senate could take up a House resolution next week that allows them to return to Columbia anytime between June and January. It calls for the GOP-dominated Legislature to adjourn a couple of weeks early on May 21, but it also lets them return later to deal with vetoes, budget problems or an ongoing federal stimulus cash fight with the Republican governor. And Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said Friday it also keeps the Republican governor from naming people to boards and commissions before the Senate reviews their qualifications.

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said the governor has no plans to circumvent screenings. "This is a red herring thrown out by Glenn McConnell so he can make political attacks on the governor."

Legislators kept the door open to returning through January because if they haven't finally and formally adjourned for the year, Mr. Sanford can't put people on some of the state's most important boards: Department of Health and Environmental Control, state-run utility Santee Cooper and the State Ports Authority. All three have been involved in rumbles with Mr. Sanford and the Legislature.

Mr. Sanford could "massacre the members of a board and put a board in place without advice and consent," Mr. McConnell said. He's particularly concerned about the Ports board being configured to push Mr. Sanford's port privatization leanings.

If that's the plan, the adjournment resolution "presents problems for him," Mr. McConnell said.

Mr. Sawyer said Mr. McConnell's concerns are based on rumors.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control, Santee Cooper and the Ports Authority affect most of the state directly or indirectly and Mr. Sanford has had issues involving board members at all three.

For instance, legislators howled several years ago when Sanford appointees worked to put a price tag on Santee Cooper, a move they claimed was a stealth plan to sell it. They overhauled who could serve on the board and curbed Mr. Sanford's authority with it.

A year ago, Mr. Sanford complained GOP legislators were standing in the way of him replacing the son of Senate Democrat Minority Leader John Land on that board. Mr. Sanford nominated someone to replace Cal Land this year, but backed away. "It was made clear to us it was going to go nowhere so we had to withdraw it," Mr. Sawyer said.

It's necessary to have "checks and balances" as Mr. Sanford tests legislators' trust, Mr. McConnell said. "You can't put that kind of blind trust in one person."

"In Senator McConnell's mind, the Senate has the checks and balances and everything else," Mr. Sawyer said. A never-ending session creates an opportunity to criticize legislators for not delivering on promises to cap state spending and restructure government, he noted.