Politics & Government

Sanford vetoes on Fairfield schools takeover overturned

The House reversed itself this afternoon and overrode Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto of a bill that strips the Fairfield County School Board of its financial authority and vests that responsibility with a five-member board to be appointed by the county's two state lawmakers.

The vote was 33-10, meeting the two-thirds requirement to override the governor. Sixty-four House members voted on the same measure Tuesday in which House lawmakers initially upheld Sanford’s veto. Forty-three voting in the afternoon reflects some House members’ decision to refrain from getting involved in "local legislation," which are bills that affect only one county that lawmakers agree not to vote on if it doesn’t impact their districts.

Earlier, the House voted 44-21 to overturn a veto of a companion bill, which will expand the school district's governing board by two members. That bill was filed to overcome a four-member voting bloc a pair of lawmakers say is frustrating reform efforts.

Rep. Boyd Brown, D-Fairfield, and Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Fairfield, got the bills passed through the General Assembly. But Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed them both, citing laws that prevent the General Assembly from usurping the authority of local governments.

Lawmakers, who had until now sat on the sideline, questioned the wisdom of the General Assembly imposing its will on a locally elected government body.

"I'm trying to get a handle on why this issue is before us," Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, asked Brown as he stood before fellow House members asking them to allow him to overturn Sanford's vetoes. "What is your response to questions about micromanaging by the (legislative) delegation when that is the responsibility of the school board?"

Brown cited an ongoing SLED investigation within the district and accreditation problems as reasons to take this action.

"If we lose accreditation, a lot of students in Fairfield County risk not getting into the college they want to go to," Brown said.

Brown also refuted claims he was trying to micromanage the school district. He said the bill creates a finance committee that would help the school steer 70 percent of its funding to the classroom. Right now, Brown says, a little more than half makes it to the classroom.

"Senator Coleman and I are not taking over the school board ourselves," Brown said. "Qualified people will (have oversight)."