Gov. Nikki Haley inadvertently sparked a legislative tempest this afternoon over questions of whether she is allowed on the Senate floor.
Haley attempted to pull senators from the floor Tuesday afternoon to discuss legislation, but Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington and a Haley antagonist, took the well to say some members had questioned whether Haley had that privilege.
Haley is allowed onto the floor because she is a former House member, Knotts said. "I just tried to clear the air to keep anything from being said," Knotts said. But in addressing the issue, Sen. Greg Ryberg argued Knotts was trying to once again embarrass the governor. During budget debate, Knotts proposed an amendment that would prohibit members of the governor's security team from doing anything other than providing security after he heard her detail was retrieving drinks at the recent Heritage golf tournament.
Knotts serves as chairman of the committee that oversees Senate ceremonial functions. "I think he's gone absolutely too far," Ryberg bellowed of Knotts from the well. "I don't care about the security person at the Heritage and what that security person did...I'm offended by the fact that he went up to complain that the governor came into this body.
Ryberg said he did not believe Knotts' claim that someone had raised the issue with Knotts. "I know your dislike for the governor and I know any chance you get to stick it to the governor. I'm tired of you just going one after another to go after the governor."
Haley quickly hustled from the Senate chamber following the blow up, and the body took a short recess to cool off. Ryberg and other members discussed the issue with the Senate security staff, who is responsible for enforcing body rules such as who is allowed in the chamber.
Haley has been aggressively working members of the Senate in the last week to get a bill capping law suit damages and another creating a Department of Administration passed. The items are part of the governor's agenda.