Gov. Nikki Haley repeated Tuesday that she needs a lieutenant governor after Glenn McConnell resigns Thursday.
"No governor should be without a second in command," Haley told reporters. "There's a lot that happens in that office. ... Just out of respect and responsibility, every time I leave this state, I have always called and told them, 'I'm leaving the state, this is when I'll be back,' just to keep those lines of communication. Who do I call now? ... The idea that we are even having a conversation about not having a lieutenant governor for five months is a little bit ridiculous."
Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, the next in line for the No. 2 post, repeated Tuesday that he will not leave the Legislature.
"It's almost comical that the lieutenant governor has become the most important position in South Carolina," Courson said.
McConnell suggested Monday that the Richland Republican either become lieutenant governor or step aside as president pro tempore for another senator who wants to become lieutenant governor. McConnell was senate president pro tempore in 2012 when Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned. "This is about the Constitution," Haley said. "(I)f there's anyone who can talk about this it's Sen. McConnell. ... I give him amazing credit for following the Constitution and doing what the people expect him to do is right.
"I'm fascinated at the conversation of comfort because any time we choose to serve, you don't serve out of comfort, you serve out of duty, and your duty is to the Constitution of this state," she added. "That is what we took the oath of office to do. That is what Sen. McConnell did. That is what I've done. We don't always like what we have to do, these jobs aren't always comfortable, but it is our job."
McConnell said someone in executive branch, not a legislator, needs to present the lieutenant governor's budget to the governor, sign off on an annual accountability report for the state Office on Aging and ratify bills approved by the General Assembly before they can go to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk.
Courson said he believes that the staff can do some of the work and he can ratify bills with the House Speaker, but he plans to seek clarification on the issues raised by McConnell, who will leave on the last regular day of the General Assembly's session.
Courson appears to have become a target after a couple of unpopular decisions.
The senator said he has heard McConnell is unhappy about his request to delay a vote on a bill until next year that would make the College of Charleston a research university. McConnell, a Charleston Republican, will become president of his alma mater on July 1. Courson has said he believes he displeased Haley with his earlier call for the removal of embattled Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller, who stepped down Monday.
The job is part-time with little authority except presiding over the Senate and overseeing the state Office on Aging.
Courson has no plans to step down as senate president pro tempore, one of most powerful positions in the Legislature. No senators have discussed with him that they were interested in becoming lieutenant governor, Courson said.
"I will not be lieutenant governor," he said.
The S.C. lieutenant governor’s office has remained vacant for lengthy periods six times since 1879, according to state records. The last vacancy lasted for two years from 1965-67.