COLUMBIA, SC - The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled late Monday that Republican Gov. Nikki Haley does not have the authority to call legislators to work during their scheduled recess, invalidating an executive order Haley issued Thursday requiring the state legislature to reconvene Tuesday morning.
The decision came after the state Senate's leader, Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, filed a 13-page lawsuit against the governor Monday morning challenging her order.
McConnell said the action violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. In Haley's response to the lawsuit, she claimed she had the right to intervene and that "exercising this constitutional power rests in the Governor's sound discretion."
Haley filed her response with the court and rallied the support of over 30 lawmakers just hours after McConnell filed his lawsuit against her, but the court ruled in a 3-2 vote in favor of McConnell.
"It is unfortunate that today, three of the five members of the South Carolina Supreme Court disagreed with every other court in the nation and the attorney general," said Haley in response to the ruling. "But we must move on, and Senator McConnell now insists that he supports the effort to add those items to the Senate's agenda when they return on June 14."
The items Haley insists the Senate take a final vote on are four restructuring bills, one of which would create a Department of Administration under the governor's cabinet--ultimately giving Haley more power.
McConnell's lawsuit argued that the bills Haley wants considered immediately are not more significant than the 79 other bills which the Senate needs to approve.
"Some of these bills may be of more or less importance to the governor, but they all represent the desire of some constituency," the petition reads. "The fact that legislative business is left uncompleted after the first year of a two-year legislative session is the quintessential definition of an ordinary occurrence and in no rational way may be construed as an extraordinary occasion."
The Supreme Court's decision said Haley's order violates the legislature's ability to set its calendar and agenda.
The South Carolina legislature will return for an extended session, previously approved, on June 14.