COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s regular legislative session would last just three months each year under a measure advanced by a House panel on Thursday.
A House Judiciary subcommittee voted 2-1 for a measure to ask voters whether legislators should cut two months from their yearly sessions in the Statehouse. House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister said the Legislature can get its work done sooner and save taxpayers the cost of mileage and daily expenses given to members while in Columbia.
“It seems to me we get things done based on a deadline,” said Bannister, R-Greenville, the main sponsor. “We manage our time based on deadlines we impose.”
The proposed constitutional amendment would move the official start date from early January to February. The session would end in early May instead of June.
January would be reserved for committee meetings.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell noted little happens on the House and Senate floors in the early weeks, especially the year following an election when all bills go back to the starting line. Proposals must get through the committee process before reaching the floor.
Rep. Walt McLeod, who voted “no,” agreed on starting later.
“We’ve been meeting and haven’t accomplished too much,” he said.
However, he said, ending the session in May hurts the Legislature’s ability to budget properly. State budget advisers update their revenue projections for the next fiscal year in May – after the House has passed its budget plan – which usually gives senators more money to work with as they craft their plan. The chambers then hash out their differences in committee.
The Board of Economic Advisors’ May estimate “provides a stronger, more accurate projection of what we’ll receive,” said McLeod, D-Little Mountain. “That’s the gut issue.”
The bill heads to the full House Judiciary Committee. Previous House proposals to shorten the legislative session have died in the Senate.