Columbia, SC (WLTX) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson says South Carolina laws are still legal, even if they don't have the official state seal on them.
Wilson issued an opinion Friday that came in response to a question raised by State Rep. Joshua Putnam. The opinion was written by Bob Cook, the state's solicitor general, who works in Wilson's office.
Putnam discovered that at least 100 state laws enacted over the last decade an a half lacked the state seal. It's the job of the South Carolina secretary of state to put the stamp on the measures.. The South Carolina Constitution states, "No Bill or Joint Resolution shall have the force of law until it shall have been read three times and on three several days in each house, has had the Great Seal of the State affixed to it, and has been signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives."
Putnam and others wondered if the lack of the mark made those laws invalid. At least one lawsuit was filed over the issue.
But in the opinion, Cook believes that even if the laws don't have the seal, they are legal and enforceable unless set aside by a court or repealed by lawmakers.
There are no previous opinions directly relating to this issue, but Cook said there was a case where the SC Supreme Court allowed for the appointment of an officer for a commission that didn't have the state seal. In that case, once the seal was added, the officer's appointment was considered valid dating back to when he was appointed.
Cook also said that if simply not putting on a seal could invalidate a law, that would in effect make the secretary of state more powerful than the governor. Even a governor's veto, Cook noted, can be overridden by the legislature. In essence, the secretary of state would also have the power to invalidate any law he or she didn't like.
"While we emphasize that the Secretary of State’s mandatory constitutional duty is to affix the State Seal upon each and every act upon presentation to his Office, we also believe that a court will give effect to and uphold the acts in question, particularly if satisfied that the Secretary of State has appropriately cured these omissions," Cook wrote.
The opinion doesn't carry the force of law, but is given as a guideline of how a court may rule.