Pow­er­ful SC House bud­get chair­man loses his post to Sumter Repub­li­can

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Local & State - BY MAAYAN SCHECHTER [email protected]­tate.com

The chair­man of the S.C. House’s bud­get-writ­ing com­mit­tee — one of the most pow­er­ful leg­is­la­tors in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly — has lost his job, a month be­fore law­mak­ers re­turn to Columbia for the 2019 ses­sion.

In a ma­jor State House shakeup that sur­prised most law­mak­ers, S.C. House Speaker Jay Lu­cas, R-Dar­ling­ton, re­moved state Rep. Brian White, R-An­der­son, from his post on the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee and re­as­signed him to the House’s La­bor and In­dus­try Com­mit­tee — a de­mo­tion to a far less in­flu­en­tial panel.

Ways and Means Com­mit­tee mem­bers unan­i­mously elected state Rep. Mur­rell Smith as chair­man Wed­nes­day. The Sumter Repub­li­can chaired the com­mit­tee’s health-care panel this past leg­isla­tive ses­sion. He pre­vi­ously was on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee for eight years be­fore join­ing Ways and Means in 2009.

“Ob­vi­ously, it’s an honor,” said Smith, an at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents a mod­er­ate GOP dis­trict in the S.C. House.

Smith also will chair the House’s Ethics Com­mit­tee at least un­til Jan­uary, when that panel elects its next leader. State Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Lau­rens, stepped down as Ethics chair­man af­ter suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack in Oc­to­ber.. Sep­a­rately, state Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, was elected chair of the House’s pow­er­ful Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

The Ways and Means Com­mit­tee is pow­er­ful. The 25-mem­ber panel writes the first draft of the state’s more than $8 bil­lion gen­eral fund bud­get, and the com­mit­tee’s chair­man can in­flu­ence heav­ily pri­or­i­ties for state spend­ing.

That means pick­ing win­ners and losers out of a mul­ti­tude of spend­ing re­quests that come in each year from state agen­cies, in­clud­ing South Carolina’s col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties and K-12 schools.

Since 2011, White had been at the cen­ter of that process. How­ever, crit­ics said White too of­ten did not lis­ten to other House mem­bers or lead­ers, mak­ing de­ci­sions uni­lat­er­ally.

White’s ouster fur­ther re­duces the Up­state’s power in the Leg­is­la­ture, which has been on the wane since the re­tire­ment of House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville. For a decade that power shifted to the Low­coun­try, which elected a gover­nor, speaker and Se­nate leader. Since then, how­ever, that in­flu­ence has shifted to the In­ter­state 20 cor­ri­dor, which now boasts a gover­nor, speaker, Se­nate leader and — with Smith — a House bud­get leader.

White learned of his re­place­ment late Tues­day.

White de­clined fur­ther com­ment.

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