Legislators eyeing shorter session

The entire Aiken County delegation has offered support for a proposal shortening the state’s legislative session, but the idea faces a few hurdles before being approved, according to S.C. Sen. Shane Massey.

“It’s going to be tough,” Massey said. “You have some traditionalists. To be honest, there are a lot of guys who just enjoy being there.”

He explained that similar measures have moved through the S.C. House of Representatives before but have died in the Senate.

The bill is currently on the Senate calendar, but Massey couldn’t pinpoint exactly when it would be up for debate.

He said the Senate would likely begin debating the state’s budget soon and hoped the proposal would be considered by the full Senate sometime soon after that.

Sen. Tom Young noted that the state actually has one of the longest legislative sessions in the country.

“By shortening the session, it would require the General Assembly to get its work done quicker, and it would save taxpayers money,” Young said.

In early February, the House approved a bill changing the start date of the legislative session from January to February.

The bill also stipulated that the legislature would adjourn no later than the first Thursday in May of each year, rather than the first Thursday in June.

Aiken County Representatives Bill Clyburn, Bill Hixon, Roland Smith, Bill Taylor and Don Wells voted in favor of the measure, ultimately approved on a 91-9 vote. Democrats cast all nine votes against the House proposal.

Clyburn, the lone Democrat in the County’s delegation, said he approved the measure because he felt it would save taxpayer money, as well as provide more time for constituent service.

Smith said he wholeheartedly agreed with the measure and noted that if ultimately signed into law, it would save taxpayers $50,000 each week the House is not in session. The savings would come from reimbursements for travel, he said.

The House bill does not make any adjustment to lawmakers’ annual salaries.

Taylor said he felt salary levels should be not considered in the proposal.

“Nobody is here for the money,” he said, noting the $10,400 salary afforded to House members.

He said while being a state legislator is not considered a full-time position, the job entails a lot more than simply debating and voting on the floor.

He explained that legislative duties often spill over into the weekend and that constituent services like answering phone calls and emails can sometimes be overlooked.

He added that he hoped the proposal would garner bipartisan support and would help make the legislature more efficient.

“Works tends to fill the space that it’s given,” he said, noting the shorter time frame should hopefully help to center debate on more pertinent issues.

Michael Ulmer covers the county government beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since March 2013. He is a native of North Augusta and majored in political science at the University of South Carolina.

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