Update on the legislative emasculate-the-attorney-general effort

Posted by Cindi Ross Scoppe on May 6, 2014 

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, right, confers with Solicitor General Robert Cook, middle, and others during a hearing to determine whether the attorney general has jurisdiction over campaign spending complaints lodged against House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

JEFF BLAKE — jblake@thestate.com Buy Photo

There never was any real danger that the Legislature would emasculate the attorney general; even if House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s friends had managed to get their legislation to do that through the House, the Senate wouldn’t have gone along. That was obvious from to me from the moment I read H.5072 and H.5073, but Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson made a point of pointing that out to me when I was visiting the upper chamber last week.

Rather, the legislation was a clear attempt to send a message to Attorney General Alan Wilson about the danger of investigating the speaker. The danger to the public was that Mr. Wilson would be intimidated. Fortunately, the effort seems to have had the opposite effect.

This of course should not be confused with the effort by Mr. Harrell’s friends in the Circuit Court to emasculate the attorney general. That effort is very much alive and very much a threat, the words of the state constitution and the statutes to the contrary notwithstanding.

In any event, House members assured me the day after their legislation was put directly on the House calendar without going through the normal committee process that this action was of course going to be reversed, that House members simply weren’t paying attention when they gave their unanimous consent to take this extraordinary step; one representative even said the House already had voted to send the legislation to committee.

In fact, the legislation remains on the House calendar. It’s not going to pass, but it hasn’t been booted to committee, where it should have been sent nearly a month ago, like all substantive statewide legislation.

Last week was the first time the House was back in session since those conversations, and no one even attempted to send the legislation to committee. Sponsors did continue to flee the measures like rats jumping off a sinking ship (we’re down to 34 cosponsors, from the breathtaking 85 of 124 representatives who initially signed on). House members did place objections on the measures, booting them to the contested calendar. And on Wednesday, Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney asked for and got the body’s consent to adjourn debate on them until today.

That was significant because it meant there was no way they could beat the May 1 deadline to pass the House in order for the Senate to consider them this year. Not that the Senate was ever going to do that anyway.

So the outstanding question — besides whether any more sponsors will abandon the legislation — is whether the House will kill these measures by sending them to Mr. Delleney’s committee to be ignored or by voting them down or by simply letting them die a slow death on the calendar, as the Senate commonly does but the House rarely does.

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