COLUMBIA, SC — Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell said Thursday that he will stay in office until all bills from the current legislative session are ratified.
McConnell had planned to step down Thursday, the final regular day of the session, to start work as president of the College of Charleston. But lawmakers will return from June 17-19 and could vote on bills in conference committee, including a proposal that would make the College of Charleston the state's third comprehensive research university.
"I'm not going to leave the state in a constitutional crisis," McConnell said in his empty lieutenant governor's office.
Who will become lieutenant governor after McConnell was thrown into doubt Wednesday when Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, stepped down as Senate president pro tempore to avoid losing his seat to become the state's No. 2 politician for six months.
The Senate president pro tempore is one of the most powerful posts in the State House. Lieutenant governor is a part-time job with little authority.
Bills approved by General Assembly must be ratified by the lieutenant governor, who is president of Senate, and House Speaker before they go to the governor.
McConnell said he has no plans to preside over the Senate anymore. Bills will be sent to Charleston for his signature.
Courson said his hand was forced to leave his leadership position when McConnell initially insisted on resigning before the legislative session ends. McConnell gave up being Senate president pro tempore when he was elevated to lieutenant governor after Ken Ard's resignation in 2012. Courson succeeded McConnell.
McConnell and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley insist the lieutenant governors office should not go unfilled, even though it has remained vacant for lengthy periods six times since 1879.
The Senate has no immediate plans to elect a new president pro tempore this session, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said.
Martin said he could see the lieutenant governor and Senate president pro tempore posts remaining open until January. If that's the case, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican facing ethics allegations, could become governor if something happens to Haley under the constitutional order of succession.
McConnell said he has heard some unnamed senators are interested in becoming president pro tempore so they can assume the lieutenant governor's office.
Courson has suggested McConnell stay through January when a newly lieutenant governor takes the oath. Attorney general's opinions have said a college president could hold a public office.
McConnell said, however, that he needs to concentrate on leading his alma mater. His contract with the College of Charleston starts July 1.
"I've got to go," McConnell said.