COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley lost her bid Monday to call legislators back to work to focus on key pieces of her agenda when the state's Supreme Court ruled for a fellow Republican who sued the governor.
Haley, a tea party favorite who was elected in November, was upset when the Legislature ended its regular session last week without approving four of her measures. She ordered lawmakers back to work this week, leading Senate president Glenn McConnell to file a lawsuit claiming she had overstepped her authority.
The state Supreme Court agreed in a 3-2 decision. The court said Haley can't call legislators back for an extra session when they're technically still assembled.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law last week to come back for a wrap-up session starting June 14, in part because they haven't passed a state budget. The limited list of items lawmakers can take up doesn't include the four Haley wants.
In response, Haley, a three-term House member before being elected governor, said she expected McConnell to make the Senate take up — and pass — the bills "first thing next Tuesday" when they reconvene. McConnell said the governor's actions will likely make that more difficult.
"She needs to roll up her sleeves and try to get some votes rather than some headlines," he said.
The law legislators passed last week limits their wrap-up session primarily to work on the budget, once-a-decade redrawing of lines for legislative and congressional districts, and agreement on bills that have already passed both chambers. To amend what they can take up requires the two-thirds approval of each chamber.
McConnell's lawsuit noted the law provided Haley a way to have her agenda items considered: "She simply has to convince enough members of each house to adopt a new resolution. This option may not be expedient enough for her liking, but it would demonstrate the appropriate degree of respect for our constitutional balance of powers."
Minutes after the regular session adjourned Thursday, Haley issued an executive order calling them back to deal with four items on her agenda: allowing voters to elect the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket; letting the governor appoint the education superintendent; merging the probation and prisons agencies; and — her top priority — putting much of the state's bureaucracy into a new agency under her control. That includes fleet and property management, and information technology.
McConnell, of Charleston, said he shared Haley's frustration that the session ended without her bills being addressed, and noted he supports all four.
It's not the first time the state Supreme Court has weighed on a lawsuit involving a South Carolina governor and the legislature. Former Gov. Mark Sanford often fought with the Legislature and sued to bar the state from getting federal stimulus money. He also famously carried defecating piglets to the doors of the House to protest spending after they overrode his budget vetoes with little discussion.
Haley also recently irritated some legislators when several members were not invited to an end-of-session cookout at the governor's mansion. Of the 124 House members, about 10 Democrats did not receive invitations and at least one was turned away at the gate.
Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.