Sen. Martin moves into judiciary chair

COLUMBIA — S.C. Sen. Larry A. Martin recently took over the chair of the senate judiciary committee with the ascension of Sen. Glenn McConnell to Lt. Governor.
McConnell took over the Lt. Governor’s job after the resignation of Ken Ard, who was indicted for violating the State Ethics Act.
Martin said he and McConnell talked about the situation after Ard’s resignation.
“He had not made his mind up yet,” Martin said. “I told him that you are remembered for how you handle the big decisions.”
Martin said that McConnell decided to accept the Lt. Governor’s position despite the fact that he would be giving up a great deal of power he held as president of the state senate, because the state constitution says he should do so.
Martin has worked closely with McConnell throughout his time in the senate.
“He is probably one of the sharper minds in the senate,” Martin said.
McConnell is known for his interest in the Civil War, participating in war re-enactments.
“That’s just a part of him,” Martin said. “It doesn’t reflect his wealth of knowledge about the state government.”
Martin said he was glad that McConnell, as Lt. Governor, will still be around the state house to give advice. Martin said that when anybody asks McConnell for advice, “He is more than happy to comply.”
Martin brings a unique perspective to his new position, as he is believed to be the first non-lawyer to chair the judiciary committee.
“I’m fairly certain I’m the first,” Martin said. “For many years the state legislature was dominated by lawyers, but in recent years, it’s become more difficult for lawyers to serve.”
Martin said that often lawyer legislators have to excuse themselves if a partner in a law firm in which they are involved with has a conflict of interest. Plus, more and more legislators are being asked to serve longer terms, which makes it harder to operate a law firm with such limited free time.
Still, Martin appreciates input from the lawyers who choose to serve despite the cost.
“There’s still a place for lawyers in the legislature,” Martin said.
“They’re very helpful. They’re very good about giving you their legal opinion, regardless of whether it supports their side of an issue.”
Martin has been on the senate judiciary committee since 1994. All senators serve on either the judiciary committee or the finance committee.
Martin said that he and fellow member of the Pickens County delegation Sen. Thomas Alexander were assigned to committees at the same time.
“He basically said to me ‘You go to the judiciary committee and I’ll go to finance, and we’ll keep each other informed about what’s going on,’” Martin said.
Martin said that he has been pleased with the response of his fellow senators.He said he thinks he can bring a “business approach” to the committee.
“I have spent my adult life working for one of the finest companies in Alice Manufacturing,” Martin said.
Martin said the fact that the legislature allows him to work part-time is beneficial.
“I come home on the weekends and I have to operate under the laws that we are passing in Columbia,” Marin said. “That’s why I would never want to see the legislature become a full-time proposition.”
While two of his three children have married and moved away and the third is attending Clemson University, the Martin home seems almost empty now, with just Larry, his wife Susan and their dog Toto.
When the kids were still at home, there was lots of political discussions at the dinner table, Martin said.
“Susan and I have always stressed to them that they were no better than anyone else,” Martin said.
Martin will be seeking re-election, beginning with the June 12 Republican primary, where his opponent is former state representative Rex Rice.
“We’ve served together, and I supported Rex when he ran for a seat in the House of Representatives,” Martin said “In fact, I would support him for almost any office he sought, but not this one.”
Martin said Rice is an “honorable guy.”
Recently Martin has had to deal with criticism from some of the state’s Tea Party organizations. One issue where he differed from the Tea Party was in bringing an warehouse to South Carolina. Martin said the Amazon agreement was a key to future economic development.
“We need jobs,” Martin said. “We can’t just build a wall around the state.”
Martin said that many of his votes differ from Tea Party views because he tries to support increasing spending on education.
“Being a senator representing one of the best school districts in the states, I feel that is only appropriate,” Martin said.
But overall, the state government has employed 10,000 less people during the past few years, Martin said.
Martin noted that the Myrtle Beach branch of the Tea Party ranks him as the 10th most conservative among 46 state senators.
But Martin realizes that he cannot always please the Tea Party officials and still serve the people who elected him.
“According to some of these people, I’m a tax-and-spend liberal,” Martin said.
Martin considers himself a traditional Republican — supporting conservative government spending — while many of the Tea Party supporters seem to have more Libertarian views — encouraging no government what so ever.
Martin said he he pays little attention to criticism that comes from outside his Senate district.
“They’re involved with other campaigns; they’re from Greenville,” Martin said. “And the bottom line is I don’t answer to them.”