COLUMBIA, S.C. — It’s possible that a decade’s worth of South Carolina laws haven’t technically been in effect because they are missing a seal required by the state constitution, a lawmaker told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Rep. Joshua Putnam told the AP he’s discovered that the Great Seal of the State of South Carolina hasn’t been attached to about 10 years’ worth of laws passed by the General Assembly. That technical requirement is listed in the state constitution as one of a handful of requirements before bills become state law.
No bill or joint resolution “shall have the force of law” unless it has passed both the House and Senate and “has had the Great Seal of the State affixed to it,” according to the state constitution.
Putnam said he came across the information while researching ways the secretary of state’s office could be more efficient and make better use of technology. He has filed to challenge Secretary of State Mark Hammond in next year’s GOP primary and has submitted an open-records request for more information.
According to longtime state Senate clerk Frank Caggiano, affixing the seal to approved legislation is among the duties of the secretary of state. However, Caggiano pointed out that this responsibility is ceremonial, adding that, if it weren’t, it would give the officeholder veto power. Otherwise, he said, if the secretary refused, the seal could “just as easily be affixed by the clerk of the Senate.”
Hammond has been secretary of state for 15 years, and his office didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment late Thursday. Putnam, a small businessman first elected to the state House in 2010, said he doesn’t think lawmakers would have to re-debate any bills but such a mistake would go beyond sloppy record-keeping.
“I cannot imagine how many laws have been passed in the past 10 years that have been affected by this,” Putnam said. “As a private citizen, that is just mindboggling. I think that goes past bad management.”