Friday, November 14, 2008
Bobby Harrell's House
I have always been a fan of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Though I realize that redistricting affects voting results, I have appreciated how the House of Representatives, was in theory, the closest to the people. Every two years the members of the House have to face the people in primaries and general elections. Every two years, the people have a chance to dramatically change the course of their state government.
However, I as a Republican, I am still no fan of what the Republican House leadership is trying to do to the South Carolina House of Representatives. It bothered me when the SC House leadership scoffed at Rep. Nikki Haley's efforts to make votes open and recorded. Though I have mixed feelings about Ms. Haley, on that matter, she was correct. The more open the House is about its votes, the better. After all, the House is the institution meant to best reflect the will of the people. For the people to know what their will should be, the House should let the sun shine in on its processes.
Now, there is an effort among the Republican leadership to allow Speaker Bobby Harrell to appoint committee chairmen instead of allowing committee members to elect their chairman. We are told that measure will protect Republicans.
However, that measure smacks in the face of Republican ideals. First, we have always been a party that claimed that the will of the people is paramount. Nothing is more paramount than the people's elected representatives being allowed to choose who leads them on committees. Second, we have always been a party against centralized power. Giving Speaker Harrell unprecedented power over who is chairman of what committee flies in the face of that belief.
Further, I just do not buy the argument that giving the Speaker power to appoint committee chairmen protects Republicans. I think instead, it protects Republicans that are allied with the Speaker. That is not a conservative position to take. That is not a liberal position to take. It is a "give power to Speaker Harrell" position.
The past two South Carolina House Speakers, Sheheen of the Democrats and Wilkins of the Republicans, were powerful men. Neither asked for such an expansion of their powers. Instead they were both confident in their abilities to influence the men and women in the House to their point of view.
When you combine Speaker Harrell's opposition to his own party member's quest for open and recorded votes and this reach for more power, any decent South Carolinian who respects the role of the House and any decent Republican who respects the ideals of Republican government has to ask, "is this the type of leadership we want representing us?"