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Supreme Court knocks down deal allowing governor to name roads chief

tglantz@thestate.com

The S.C. Supreme Court ruled unlawful Wednesday a one-year budget amendment extending the governor’s ability to appoint the head of the S.C. Department of Transportation.

The budget amendment, called a proviso, was stricken down by the court, stripping Gov. Nikki Haley of her ability to appoint the head of the Transportation Department, now Christy Hall.

When it became clear a road-repair bill would not pass last year, lawmakers used the budget deal to extend Haley’s ability to appoint the Transportation secretary through the 2015-16 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

However, the Supreme Court ruled the amendment violated the one-subject requirement in the state Constitution. That rule requires that every bill or resolution relate to one subject. The extension of Haley’s appointment powers did not inherently relate to raising or spending tax dollars, the court said.

Transportation Department Commission Chairman Mike Wooten said it is his goal to call an emergency meeting on Wednesday to reconfirm Hall. He also hoped to include language that would ensure the actions Hall has taken over the past several months as head of the agency are valid.

State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, said the Supreme Court ruling showed why the Transportation Department structure needs reform in addition to additional money.

House members on the state’s budget-writing panel will consider later Wednesday a proposal that merges changes with a bonding plan to spend roughly $4 billion in road-repair projects.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

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