On this date, The State newspaper published this statement by Governor Nikki Haley:
"Anything that empowers the voters, I’m always going to support,” said Haley, speaking to reporters after announcing a $14 million business investment in Bamberg County. “At the end of the day, it’s the people we want to be satisfied with who they had.”
To be clear, let's examine her quote again. Though her statement is inartfully composed, Haley declares affirmatively that she is "always going to support" "anything that empowers the voters."
I would like to take the governor at her word, but history warns against it. On this very topic, she has stated aloud and represented in print her position on voter empowerment many, many times, and the quote she offered on July 22 contradicts every single instance of her earlier statements and positions.
In South Carolina, voters since 1868 have had, and have been able to elect in a general election, a state superintendent of education. To restate the point: For 142 years, South Carolina voters have been empowered by their state constitution to elect the person who would oversee the operations of our state public school system and would be the chief advocate for South Carolina's public schoolchildren.
Presumably for the same period of time, we've had an office of lieutenant governor that is elected separately from the office of the governor.
These facts represent two rights of voter empowerment that Haley has sought, in her public addresses and in print, to take away from voters. To read on July 22 that she now is "always going to support" "anything that empowers the voters" means one of two things: Haley has reversed her position on one of the pillars of her platform to restructure state government, or she is lying to achieve a political goal.
I wonder what John Rainey would say she's doing.
There is a second part to Haley's July 22 quote:
“At the end of the day, it’s the people we want to be satisfied with who they had.”
Her sentiment reflects perfectly the power that voters enjoy today, as voters are able to elect both an education superintendent and a lieutenant governor.
But in every case when these topics have been raised, Haley has sought to take away that power from voters. Consider this news report from February 2011:
When South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley steps before the House Constitutional Laws Subcommittee Tuesday afternoon, she is expected to testify in favor of three bills that would dramatically change the structure of the state's government and consolidate her power.
Subcommittee member Rep. Derham Cole, R-Spartanburg, said he anticipated Haley would speak in support of the bills and hopes "that getting these out early in the session will mean favorable passage in the Senate."
The three bills are:
H. 3066, The S.C. Restructuring Act of 2011, that would create the Department of Administration that Haley and her predecessor, Gov. Mark Sanford, have pushed for.
H. 3152. Which would have the governor and lieutenant governor run together on the same ticket.
H. 3070, which would remove the education superintendent from the list of elected state officers and make it a position appointed by the governor.
Unlike the bill to create a Department of Administration, the legislation consolidating the governor and lieutenant governor to one ticket and making the education superintendent an appointed office require S.C. voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution in 2012.
Haley said the state should have the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ballot, as H. 3152 proposes. "It simply does not make sense to have two people with two different agendas at the top of our executive branch," she said in the State of the State address.
Haley also said education receives 40 percent of the budget and that it is crucial the governor and the education superintendent work together. If voters approved, the superintendent would have a Cabinet position.
And when her mission to take power away from voters was thwarted and not achieved in the state Senate this year, she responded with speed and venom, issuing an executive order to bring lawmakers back to Columbia to give her what she wanted.
Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell has asked the South Carolina Supreme Court for emergency guidance–claiming the governor’s order is unconstitutional. His question to the court: Can a governor force the legislature back into session to take up bills that were not included in the Sine Die resolution?
We’re coming back next week, what’s the rush? One week, and we now run the risk of all these constitutional questions, but that hasn’t been said.
However, Governor Haley says due to the Sine Die resolution, the Senate cannot take up the bill.
The governor answers McConnell’s question: “What’s the rush?”
I’ll tell you exactly why. Every day that we don’t restructure our government, every day is costing us money. We are wasting dollars by the hours and it’s ridiculous. They have kicked this can down the road literally for years, saying they don’t want to do this.
McConnell says he understands the governor’s frustrations in unfinished business, but that’s no need to mull over the state Constitution.
The governor has the power under the Constitution to call us back for extraordinary occurrences. There’s nothing extraordinary about bills not making it, hundreds of them (don’t) every year. The most ordinary thing in the world is bills don’t make it and it’s a good thing because it keeps us from having too much government.
McConnell says he does support the bills that Haley wants to take up, which would create a Department of Administration, put the lieutenant governor and governor on the same ticket, and make the superintendent of education an appointed, not elected, position.
What is the purpose of making of the education superintendent an appointed position, and eliminating the separate election of a lieutenant governor? It takes power away from voters and consolidates that power in the hands of, first, gubernatorial candidates in the case of the lieutenant governor-as-running mate, and second, the hands of the governor, who would then control the Department of Education.
If Haley is granted this concession by the legislature, the changes will be put on the ballot for South Carolina's voters to approve or disapprove because they require changes to the state Constitution.
At present, the office of South Carolina's governor is one of the weakest in the nation, as our state's leaders have long preferred leaving power in the hands of the legislature, closest to the voters.
If voters were to approve the Constitutional changes, they would make Haley one of the most powerful chief executives, with a hand-picked lieutenant governor presiding over the state Senate, and a hand-picked education superintendent doing her bidding at the Department of Education. Her influence over our children would be astonishing and have permanent impacts. And all of this would come at the expense of voter empowerment.
What do our neighbors do? Both North Carolina and Georgia elect their state superintendents of education, and elect their lieutenant governor separately from their governor. It appears that both North Carolina and Georgia are content to leave power in the hands of voters rather than to establish a monarch-governor.
Of course, Haley's Star Chamber will say that she was speaking to a very narrow issue on July 22 -- the issue of giving voters the power to recall lawmakers -- and that applying her quote to other matters is not appropriate. But Haley herself made her statement as broad as the South Carolina sky. It's hard to misunderstand your governor's intent when she says, "Anything that empowers the voters, I’m always going to support," and "At the end of the day, it’s the people we want to be satisfied with who they had."