Tuesday, July 8, 2014

South Carolina Bill to Streamline Presidential Primary Funding Becomes Law

Back in March the South Carolina state House took up, considered and passed HB 4732. The legislation sought to clarify the method under which the Palmetto state would fund its quadrennial presidential preference primary.

As FHQ has detailed previously, South Carolina -- up to the 2008 cycle -- had left the funding of the presidential primaries of the two major parties up to the respective state parties. The dates, delegate allocation rules and funding were all the domain of the state parties before 2008. In the lead up to that election cycle, however, the South Carolina legislature shifted the funding burden to the state government while leaving the other roles to the state parties. The 2007 change to the law allowed the South Carolina State Election Commission the ability to set the filing fee while granting the parties the power to issue an additional certification fee.

But there were problems with that change. The most direct problem was that there was a reference to the 2008 election in the law. That meant that the alteration technically had a sunset provision that was not fixed prior to the 2012 presidential election cycle. More indirectly, there was in 2011-12 some question as to the process by which funds would be disbursed to the counties for implementation. In question was whether the State Election Commission divvied those funds out to the counties ahead of the election or reimbursed the counties after they had footed the bill for conducting the presidential preference primary election. The latter had seemingly been the method by which funds were disbursed/reimbursed, but that left the counties -- some of the larger ones -- crying foul in 2011.

The bill -- HB 4732 -- rectifying the first issue was unanimously passed by the state House in March and ultimately taken up and passed by the state Senate; also by a unanimous vote (in late May). The indirect intra-governmental dispute (state versus counties) over funding/reimbursement was essentially fixed in early 2012 when the counties' claim was denied by the South Carolina Supreme Court.1

This 2014 legislation, after garnering unanimous support in both chambers of the South Carolina General Assembly, made the June signature of Governor Nikki Haley (R) nothing more than a formality. The change took effect immediately, thus clarifying the process by which South Carolina presidential primaries are funded.

1 The counties' petition concerned the fact that after 2008 the funding mechanism should have reverted to the state parties. However the state supreme court countered that while the law did refer only to 2008, the state budget thereafter had made allowances for funding the presidential primary.

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