COLUMBIA The leader of Senate Republicans called for the head of the Senate to step down Tuesday, saying he held too many jobs to be effective after a session where the state appears unlikely to have a new budget by the July 1 deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, said Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, cannot lead the chamber while also running its budget-writing committee. Peeler also noted several other budget-related legislative committees that Leatherman leads or serves on, including ones that decide pay for agency heads and approves all big-spending projects in the state.
“It is with my utmost respect that I ask that you relinquish your position as the Senate president pro tempore today,” said Peeler, Leatherman’s desk mate of 35 years.
“Words matter and actions, or lack thereof, matter,” Peeler said. “Words like, ‘Dysfunctional senate.’ ”
Peeler cited the Senate not passing legislation to reform the state’s ethics laws, transportation department, reduce the income tax rate and lack of a state budget.
“The Senate buck stops at the pro tempore’s desk,” Peeler said.
“He’s capable of being chairman of finance,” said Peeler. “He’s capable of being president pro tempore – just not at the same time."
Leatherman was elected Senate president pro tempore a year ago. Peeler voted for Leatherman to lead the Senate while continuing to head the finance committee.
Leatherman did not step down from the post on Tuesday.
As Peeler made his speech, across the lobby, House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, cast blame on the Senate.
Lucas said the House has passed a budget twice. He referenced a savings account spending bill has sat in the Senate since mid-March, and a roads bill that the House sent over in mid-April.
Lucas also was angered by criticism by Gov. Nikki Haley on her Facebook page that blamed all lawmakers for failing to pass a budget by July 1, which could remove her ability to appoint the head of the Department of Transportation.
“Instead of sitting on the sidelines and providing false information to the public through social media, Gov. Haley should show true leadership and actively engage with the Senate rather than blaming the House for the Senate’s ineffectiveness,” Lucas said.