South Carolina bill would overhaul ports authority

| 12/30/2008

If a South Carolina state lawmaker gets his way, big changes would be under way at the State Ports Authority.

Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, has prefiled a bill for consideration during the upcoming session that would dissolve the SPA’s governing board and eliminate the top executive job. In return, an executive director would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate by the summer. The director would be included on the governor’s Cabinet.

Currently, the board is made up of nine members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate for seven-year terms.

The bill – H3128 – was filed at a time when the port was doing less business, The Post and Courier in Charleston reported. However, Merrill said his concerns about the port reach beyond container volume. He cited viewpoints on the port authority that inhibit the board’s effectiveness.

Merrill said the changes are needed to fix frustrations with chairmen who have two-year terms and varying goals. In addition, the public would have one port official to hold accountable.

Critics question the advantages of such a drastic overhaul.

Merrill’s bill has been forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration during the regular session that starts Jan. 13.

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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor