Senate to shun censure debate?

McConnell doesn't want chamber to 'waste' too much time on issue

joconnor@thestate.comJanuary 8, 2010 

  • Next for Sanford

    Lawmakers will formally rebuke Gov. Mark Sanford for his actions related to his June disappearance and a 2008 taxpayer-funded trip in which the governor carried on an extramarital affair.

    WEDNESDAY

    The S.C. House will vote on a censure resolution in which it says the governor brought "ridicule, dishonor, disgrace and shame on the state."

    THIS MONTH

    The S.C. Ethics Commission is expected to schedule a hearing to take up 37 ethics charges against the governor regarding his travel and campaign spending. Sanford could face fines of up to $74,000.

    FEBRUARY

    The governor and first lady Jenny Sanford head to divorce court. Jenny Sanford's memoir, "Staying True," will be released Feb. 5.

    Sanford's budget cuts

    Gov. Mark Sanford on Thursday released his executive budget, which includes $254.9 million in cuts and savings. Some examples:

    4-H - Sanford's budget cuts $3.96 million in 4-H funds, which pay for agricultural assistance services. The proposal is part of a list of cuts that would eliminate 91 percent of the Clemson University Public Service Activities budget.

    Eliminate education administrators - Sanford's budget would save $6.55 million by axing 15 percent of the State Department of Education staff.

    Student services - State funding for non-classroom activities would be cut at five state colleges, for a savings of $7.3 million. That would include such functions as public relations.

    Lawmakers' budget cuts

    Lawmakers identified a handful of items that might be cut from the state budget for the year beginning July 1.

    National Board Certification bonuses - Teachers receive $7,500 a year for 10 years when they earn this certification, but lawmakers have long questioned whether it results in better teachers. Those bonuses could be cut off for those who have yet to earn the certification.

    Physical education - The General Assembly approved a program setting physical education requirements and asking school districts to assess how well they are meeting state standards. Funding for the program expansion would not be awarded.

    Streamline state agencies - Lawmakers said they are looking at eliminating agencies that duplicate duties. Among the agencies' names: the S.C. Education Oversight Committee

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said Thursday the S.C. Senate may not ever vote on a censure of Gov. Mark Sanford that the House expects to approve next week.

Unless the Senate quickly can take up the matter, which criticizes Sanford for his clandestine June trip to Argentina and subsequent discoveries about his use of state aircraft, McConnell, R-Charleston, worried that the nonbinding resolution had the potential to bog down Senate business.

The bill could be taken up immediately in the Senate, but would be sent to committee if even one senator objects. Once back on the floor, McConnell said the bill would be open to amending.

"If it's an open-season debate, it's not worth the resources," McConnell said. "At the end of the day, what does it matter? Either you approve or disapprove. I don't know anybody (in the Senate) who supports (Sanford's) behavior."

A House panel approved the censure, which serves as an official rebuke, after investigating Sanford's record this fall. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Harrison, R-Richland, said the censure likely would be set for a Wednesday vote. Harrison thinks the House will unanimously approve the censure.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the Senate should vote on the bill as well.

If the public is disappointed that Sanford might escape any official punishment, Harrell said, "the public would need to make that case with (the Senate)."

But McConnell said the public is tired of the issue and a prolonged floor debate would draw more ire than letting the matter fade away.

"Why waste a lot of resources and time on a resolution that ultimately has no binding effect?" McConnell asked. "If we can get it up and out, I have no problem getting it up and out."

Sanford declined to comment on the censure, saying he would leave those decisions to the Legislature.

Reach O'Connor at (803) 771-8358.

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