South Carolina

Supreme Court knocks down deal allowing governor to name roads chief

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.

The Transportation Commission held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon to appoint Hall as roads chief, retroactively from July 1, 2015. The unanimous vote also approved all action taken by Hall since July 1.

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 a Senate proposal that now merges changes to the Transportation Department structure with a bonding plan to spend roughly $4 billion in road-repair projects.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope