By Paul Gable
The election mess in Richland County is another example of why Home Rule should be totally implemented throughout the state of South Carolina.
We know combining Home Rule and South Carolina in the same sentence is an oxymoron, but we’ll give it a try anyway.
Back in the days before the Supreme Court issued its “one man, one vote” ruling, one senator was elected from each of the state’s 46 counties. For all intents and purposes, the senator was county government, ruling in almost a feudal manner.
State senators loved that power and were extremely reluctant to have it go away. When the General Assembly passed legislation establishing county councils as the form of government for the unincorporated areas of each county, considerable appointive power to local boards and commissions was maintained at the county legislative delegation level.
When the Richland County voter registration board and election commission were combined into one entity last year, the power to appoint officials to the new agency was maintained by the Richland County legislative delegation. The power to fire those appointed by the legislative delegation, evidently, rests with no one.
It looks like Richland County voters have long lines to look forward to in years to come because the group that brought you last week’s election debacle is here to stay for a while.
But, legislative delegation appointments to independent agencies and the additional levels of authority they impose on governmental structure, do not begin and end in Richland County.
In Horry County, the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority board is still appointed by the legislative delegation. The agency’s mission is to bring water and sewer services to unincorporated areas of the county.
In recent years, GSWSA has extended its services over county and state borders, apparently in violation of its legislative mandate, with no oversight of the appointed board.
The County Transportation Committee, appointed by the legislative delegation, receives funds each year from state gas tax revenue. It is free to expend that money on any road projects it sees fit to fund, including, in years past, paving what are essentially private roads for those with influence.
County magistrates are appointed by the legislative delegation, even though they are paid with county tax dollars. In fact, fully one-third of the workers paid out of the county’s general fund are not controlled by county government. County government pays them, but they are hired and controlled by various state level elected and appointed officials.
There are other examples, but the overriding principle here is too many independent agencies affect decisions at the local level with no local government input or oversight allowed.
State elected legislators should worry about running the state. Locally elected government officials should be allowed to run local affairs without interference from non-local outside agencies and groups
That way, voters can easily identify who to blame when problems occur and who to replace when the next election comes.