Normally, legislative committee hearings are scheduled and posted by Monday evening. That’s not what happened this week. Late on Tuesday (2/28), a hearing was scheduled for 9am on Thursday morning by the House Constitutional Laws subcommittee. As noted by Jonathan Hill’s Bad Bill Sheets, this happened because SC law requires legislative hearings to be announced 24 hours before the hearing takes place (SC Code 30-4-80). While the law requires a 24 hour notice on the hearing, it doesn’t say anything about including the agenda…
Which is why at 5:02pm on Wednesday (3/1), committee chairman Jay Jordan of Florence **amended** the agenda for the hearing scheduled for the following morning. Now, there are two additional bills on the docket. The first bill reintroduces lethal injections as an option for the death penalty (S. 120). The second bill…well, that bill is my personal favorite.
H. 4066 Not only limits the number of state delegates to a party convention, it also deters primary election challenges in multiple ways.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves on this last point, let’s acknowledge the screaming red flag painted all over this bill: it deals with two separate issues. Article III, Section 17 of the South Carolina Constitution makes it clear that one bill must address one subject. H. 4066 addresses Title 7, Chapter 9 (party organization) and Title 7, Chapter 17 (election results).
Note From Janis: For reference, Minnesota has a similar population to SC, and their GOP sends over 2000 delegates to their State Convention. Texas, which has over 5.5 times our population, sends 7500 delegates to their State Convention, which amounts to double what Drew is proposing the cap to be 639 state delegates for SC. Why?
Now, let’s move on to the minute details.
In Section 2(B) of this bill, the state executive committee can require a surety bond payment up to $5,000 of anyone wishing to challenge a primary election result. If the challenge is granted by the executive committee, the challenger receives a refund. If they are denied, they lose the money.
In Section 2(C), this bill states: “Appeals from decisions by the state executive committee must be taken directly to the Supreme Court on petition for a writ of certiorari only based on record of the state executive committee hearing and must be granted first priority of consideration by the Court. Notice of appeals must be served within ten days of the state executive committee’s decision.”
Translation: The challenger can only appeal the state executive committee’s decision to the state Supreme Court. In the event that the state Supreme Court decides to hear it, the challenger cannot bring up ANY information that was not brought up previously in front of the state executive committee hearing. This gives complete power to this party executive committee and their imaginations.
This is really sounding familiar...maybe that’s because there were multiple challenges to the 2022 Republican primaries that numerous South Carolinians across the state traveled to testify to the GOP (who runs their own primary!) of the countless documented election violations. These citizens were locked out of the executive committee “hearing”, and were either removed from the building or forced into a separate room to wait indefinitely for the rest of the evening. The challengers of the primaries (two being statewide candidates) were only given 20 minutes to produce their evidence and prove their case to the executive committee that had already been coached by GOP Chair Drew McKissick for 30 minutes prior on ‘what the candidates are trying to do’.
It almost seems as if the GOP would like to make money off of it this time, or not be put out at all. That may be why they have Representative Brandon Newton – District 45 (Kershaw & Lancaster) filing this bill under the cloak of darkness. Fun fact: According to his SC Statehouse bio, Rep. Newton has been a member of the executive committee of the South Carolina Republican Party since 2019. How convenient!
If there is one thing we can count on, it’s the GOP ramrodding something huge at the twelfth hour without batting an eyelash. It reminds me of the SC GOP state party convention that took place at the last minute in July 2022 where the GOP forced through multiple significant rule changes without explanation with Rep. Tommy Pope as parliamentarian. Delegates and onlookers walked out dazed and confusion as to “what just happened?” Come to find out after the fact, a member can no longer sue the party and if you want to become an elected representative of your county, you have to vote in two of the last three REPUBLICAN primaries. That is, if they kept a record of it… *wink wink*
But don’t worry: we are always watching and we never forget.
UPDATE: GOP Chair Drew McKissick spoke at the subcommittee hearing today (approximately 9:30am on March 2nd) in favor of H. 4066. GOP Executive Director Hope Walker was also in attendance. Here were his top points:
- State party delegate allotment been on “auto pilot since the 60s or 70s”
- In the protest hearings, there’s a “level of professionalism” problem
- There were a “good number of frivolous protests when the candidate has no skin in the game”
- This bill will limit claims and speed up the process so there are “less protests to deal with”