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House Speaker removes chairman of powerful budget committee

December 5, 2018

FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2015, file photo, Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, listens during a joint session of South Carolina legislature at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas is making a big change to one of the most powerful committees in the South Carolina Legislature. Lucas removed White as chairman of the budget writing Ways and Means Committee, bumping him down to a regular member of the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — House Speaker Jay Lucas is making a big change to one of the most powerful committees in the South Carolina Legislature.

Lucas removed Republican Rep. Brian White of Anderson as chairman of the budget writing Ways and Means Committee, bumping him down to a regular member of the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.

Ways and Means Committee members voted Wednesday to make Republican Rep. Murrell Smith of Sumter their new chairman. He faced no opposition.

White said Lucas told him Tuesday evening that fellow Republicans wanted him out, replaced by someone who would better carry out the party’s agenda. He did not offer specifics.

“Throughout my service, I have always tried to do what’s right for the state and the people of South Carolina without regard for political considerations. I’m proud of the accomplishments I leave behind. I wish the next chairman all the best,” White said in a statement.

Lucas did not discuss his decision as he presided over a brief session of the House on Wednesday, speaking only about his overall philosophy on committee assignments to carefully consider party and personal experience and to assign the right people to the best committee.

The speaker issued a statement later Wednesday saying the decision was not personal and White is a friend, a good man and was an excellent Ways and Means Committee chairman.

“However, I believe that positive change is necessary to diligently address upcoming budget items and am confident Murrell Smith will give a renewed direction to the committee in this leadership role,” Lucas said in a statement.

The speaker didn’t detail what changes he thought were needed and his chief of staff said he wasn’t giving interviews.

White has run the Ways and Means Committee since 2011. It gets the first crack at the state budget. The chairman also sits on the State Fiscal Accountability Authority and the Joint Bond Review Committee which review and approve expensive state projects.

White was appointed chairman by the previous Speaker, Bobby Harrell, who resigned in 2014 after pleading guilty to spending campaign money for personal expenses.

It was the first major move of Lucas’ four years as speaker.

Smith thanked his fellow committee members for their vote and praised White for his leadership during Wednesday’s brief meeting.

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