SC lawmakers hire former state rep to $146,000-a-year job

12/03/2012 3:26 PM

12/03/2012 11:21 PM

Retiring state Rep. Jim Harrison will make $146,000 a year in his new job as state code commissioner.

Harrison started his new job Nov. 19 after he unanimously was selected by the Legislative Council – Secretary of State Mark Hammond, R-Spartanburg; House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston; Senate President and Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston; and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens.

The Legislative Council did not post the job opening and never had a formal meeting to select Harrison.

“It’s not a job you post,” said Martin, who referred to the job as a political appointment. “There was never a called meeting. I told them that I was fine with Jim Harrison. And Jim had mentioned it to me before the end of the session that he was interested in doing it. I was more than happy to support Jim. He’s a very competent, very capable attorney. He will do an outstanding job as the code commissioner.”

As code commissioner, it is Harrison’s job to merge new laws enacted by the General Assembly into the S.C. code of laws. He also is director of the Legislative Council, overseeing 32 employees who research and draft bills for members of the General Assembly.

Martin said state law does not require the Legislative Council to post the job opening, although he said he would have preferred that the council hire Harrison by voting in a formal meeting.

The state law creating the code commissioner says the commissioner “shall be elected by a majority vote of the Legislative Council for a term of four years” and will “receive such annual salary as may be provided by the General Assembly.”

Harrison replaces Stephen Draffin, who retired after 14 years as code commissioner.

“I enjoyed my 23 years of service with the House,” Harrison said. “This is a very professional organization. It appealed to me as something I would like to do at this stage in my career.”

Harrison’s position as the code commissioner will not affect his legislative pension because legislators are on a separate retirement system from state employees.

But it will give him a boost in the S.C. Retirement System. Harrison spent 11 years as an attorney for the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, an agency that no longer exists after lawmakers moved its duties to the Department of Revenue in the early 1990s. Now that Harrison is a state employee again, he will restart his contributions to that system and add to his years of service.

Harrison, who was the chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, announced his retirement from the Legislature earlier this year.

As code commissioner, he still will have an office at the State House. “You’re still close to the game, but it’s a totally different aspect of the game,” Harrison said. “It involves researching and drafting (bills).”

Harrison started work at one of the busiest times of the year for the Legislative Council. Deadlines for prefiling legislation in the House are Dec. 11 and Dec. 18, while deadlines to prefile legislation in the Senate are Dec. 13 and 19.

Voters in House District 75 elected Republican Kirkman Finlay to succeed Harrison for the legislative session that begins Jan. 8.

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