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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gov. Nikki Haley signed legislation Tuesday outlining the qualifications needed to fill the post of the state’s top military officer if voters in November approve the idea the governor should appoint someone to the job.
South Carolina is the only state in the nation to elect its top military officer by popular vote. In Vermont, lawmakers vote on their choice for adjutant general, who is in charge of a state’s Army and Air National Guards.
At a news conference in the statehouse lobby, Haley hailed the measure as restructuring government to ensure it responds to the needs of its citizens.
“Today is a very special day because we are the last state in the country that still elects an adjutant general,” Haley said.
She praised the current adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, as a “tremendous” partner who has dealt with international military deployments and natural disaster responses in his role as head of the Army and Air Force National Guard, the State Guard and the state’s Emergency Management Division.
Haley indicated she believed voters will approve the measure, as they approved allowing the lieutenant governor and the governor to run on the same ticket in 2018.
“It’s a very, very good thing,” she said.
Last month, the House and Senate agreed on the measure that put the constitutional question on the ballot. If voters approve, the governor will appoint the adjutant general beginning in 2019.
An accompanying bill, which was the one Haley signed, requires candidates for the post to have earned a general’s rank, attended a graduate level military educational institute, have federally commissioned service in the state’s National Guard, and command experience at the battalion or squadron level, or higher.
Livingston ran unopposed in 2010, but this year faces James Breazeale of Florence, a commercial airline pilot who has been in the Army Reserves and deployed several times to Iraq and Kuwait.
Lawmakers have pushed through a flurry of other military-related measures in recent days, while some proposals have languished.
Last week Haley signed measures to:
■ allow private companies to give hiring preferences to veterans and their spouses in certain cases.
■ create a South Carolina Prisoner of War Medal that the governor could award.
■ designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as “A Day of Recognition for Veterans’ Spouses and Families’ in South Carolina.”
Still awaiting debate in a Senate finance panel is a bill that would allow a military tax deduction for state income taxes. Backers contend it would draw military retirees to the state. According a state government revenue estimate, the proposal would reduce income tax revenue by $7.5 million in 2014-15, $15.4 million in 2015-16 and $23.8 million in 16-17 when fully implemented.