The Buzz

Gov. Haley blasts SC House for off-the-record voting

Gov. Nikki Haley blasted the S.C. House Monday for adopting some sections of the state’s $6.9 billion general fund budget without members voting on the record.

House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, eventually backtracked and had lawmakers vote on the record, but not before Haley lashed out.

“Some things never change,” Republican Haley wrote on Facebook Monday afternoon.

“Rules protect legislators. Laws protect the people,” Haley wrote. “Why is it that we continue to face these fights of transparency with the Legislature?”

Roll-call voting was an issue Haley campaigned on in her 2010 bid for governor, after pushing for it as a representative. The issue first emerged in 2008 after the small-government S.C. Policy Council think tank did a study showing how few roll-call votes were taken.

A 2011 state law specifically says lawmakers must pass each section of the state’s annual budget bill with a roll-call votes.

But a House rule says the body can pass sections of the budget with unanimous consent – meaning, if no one objects.

Haley criticized the House for following its own rule over state law Monday, saying it acted as though House rule “trumps state law.”

Lucas reversed course after Haley’s Facebook post. But his spokesperson, Caroline Delleney, said the reversal was the result of an “abundance of caution,” not Haley’s comments.

The speaker “believes that transparency and accountability are essential when determining how to spend South Carolina taxpayers’ money,” she said.

The House’s 124 members usually cast their votes on an electronic board. But the House encountered technical problems with that board Monday.

Lucas proceeded by having the House vote on some non-controversial sections of the budget by unanimous consent.

Nathan Ballentine, R-Republican, objected on the House floor. Haley ally Ballentine said he was happy when Lucas later reversed his course.

“To me, state law trumps everything,” Ballentine said.

The House had gone through several parts of the budget, when Lucas said the House should go back and vote on-the-record – not because it had to, but because it was the right thing to do.

“Do we have to do that?” Lucas told representatives. “No. Do I think it’s the right thing to do, given there have been members who have objected? Yes.”

Some members were upset, yelling “no” loudly when Lucas asked them to re-do their votes on the budget.

Ashley Landess, president of the S.C. Policy Council, said the arguments sounded similar to those that lawmakers who opposed roll-call voting made four years ago.

“(Legislators’) ridiculous rules do not trump state laws,” Landess said. “I hope that Speaker Lucas either misspoke or we misunderstood him.”