In the wake of Speaker Bobby Harrell’s exit, some House members said Friday they want to see changes in the way legislators are named to committees.
House members will return to Columbia Dec. 2-3 for an organizational session to elect officers, including a new speaker, and adopt rules. Typically, that is when committee assignments are handed out.
Harrell’s exit means a new speaker will assign members to committees, giving lawmakers a new leader to lobby for plum positions.
Acting Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, who faces no opposition to become the next speaker, will ask lawmakers their committee preferences after the Nov. 4 election.
Lucas said he is aware that “there has been some dissatisfaction in the way the House has been run,” including members’ committee assignments.
“I'm hoping to see broad change,” said state Rep. Tommy Stringer, R-Greenville.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said the jockeying for committee assignments has not heated up yet – likely because of Harrell’s legal proceedings and the pending Nov. 4 election.
But state Rep. Ralph Norman, a Rock Hill Republican, has his sights set on the House’s budget-writing committee that sets how state dollars are spent.
Norman, a real estate developer, said he long has wanted to be on the Ways and Means Committee. But Harrell – whom Norman ran against for speaker in 2010, only to win five votes – refused him that assignment, Norman said. “I was the one who opposed him.”
Two popular committees – the budget and education committees – have several vacancies. The education committee’s chairman retired this year, opening up a leadership role there.
Philip Lowe, R-Florence, said he’ll take whatever committee assignment he receives, but he hopes a Florence representative is named to Ways and Means.
After Harrell was indicted on misdemeanor public corruption charges and suspended from office last month, Lucas and other lawmakers moved quickly to say their top priorities, heading into the December organizational session, included reining in the speaker’s powers, passing ethics reform and spreading more power around the chamber.
Harrell, a Charleston Republican, pleaded guilty to six public corruption charges this week and resigned.
Lucas said reforms in the House will come from members.
“We have an opportunity to remake the body, but rule changes can be no substitute for hard work and integrity,” Lucas said. “If you have those two things, you ... will advance quickly in the House.
“We will see some movement because of that.”