By Paul Gable
Politics abhors a vacuum and moves began immediately to fill the one left by the suspension of S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell last week.
Hampered with his nine indictments, Harrell’s political career is probably over. He is on the ballot in November and could be re-elected to his House seat while suspended and awaiting the legal process to go forward. But he cannot assume that seat again unless exonerated and the vote for a Speaker to lead the House in the next legislative session will be long past by then.
In the meantime, it appears Speaker Pro Tempore Jay Lucas, the man filling the Speaker’s position until the organization meeting after the November general election, is in the lead to succeed Harrell as the next Speaker.
On Friday, Lucas reportedly gained the endorsement of House Ways and Means chairman Brian White, who was expected to be a strong candidate to succeed Harrell.
In addition to the endorsement, Lucas and White joined together to announce the formation of a Special Ad Hoc Committee called the Infrastructure and Management Committee.
According to a Friday press release from the Speaker’s office, the committee “will work to identify funding sources that can be dedicated to improving our roadways and will focus on what reforms at SCDOT are necessary to ensure those funds are being managed in a way that best addresses our infrastructure needs.”
“This is the number one issue facing our state,” said White. “Our roads impact everyone. It’s a diverse problem, affecting all areas of the state, and we need a broad approach and perspective to examine all aspects of the issue.”
Gov. Nikki Haley has promised to announce a major road initiative, if she is re-elected, when the new General Assembly session begins in January 2015. Now the two men who look to be leading the House in the next session have chimed in with their own road initiative.
Where will the money come from to fund the $43 billion dollars that SCDOT estimates will be required to fund road projects over the next 25 years?
Here’s where things get interesting.
Interests associated with Indian gaming believe they will get Haley’s signature on a pact with at least two Native American tribes allowing gambling casinos into the state if she is re-elected.
Two months ago, the Obama administration opened the Atlantic coast from Florida to Delaware for offshore oil and gas exploration.
According to several sources in Columbia, a political arm of the Koch brothers reportedly provides the S.C. Policy Council with funding of $1 million per year. The S.C. Policy council brought the original complaint against Harrell to the attorney general.
To say the Koch brothers are interested in oil and gas drilling is to say bees are interested in honey.
Harrell supported developing alternative energy solutions rather than drilling off the S.C. Coast.
Did a perfect storm develop over Harrell’s head that made his ouster necessary?
We’ll have to wait and see how things develop.