Shortening the legislative session?

Written by Jennifer Bellamy (WLTX)

Columbia, SC (WLTX) — Some state lawmakers say a shorter session would increase and diversify candidates vying for state office and save taxpayers money.

Many also say they support a shorter session.

“South Carolina has the longest legislative session in the United States,” said Rep. Jenny Horne, a Republican from Dorchester County.

“We waste so much time up here,” said Rep. Boyd Brown, a Democrat from Fairfield County.

Members of both parties and from house say they would support legislation that would shorten the general assembly’s session.

“We can do out business much more expeditiously,” said Sen. John Courson, a Republican from Richland.

“I’m all for that I think we stay down here too long now,” said Republican Sen. Ronnie Cromer of Newberry County. “We may have to have some individual meetings outside of session for different committees and all but there’s no reason we couldn’t bring five, ten senators down here or five, ten house members.”

Horne authored the bill that would take the session down to about 13 weeks. Right now, with an adjournment date set for the first Thursday in June, it could cut about eight weeks from the calendar.

She says the move could save tax payers about $50,000 per week.

“It would make us prioritize,” said Horne.

Some lawmakers favor the proposal because they say it would encourage more people to throw their hat into the political arena.

“It takes a lot for people to spend 6 months away from their paying job, so if we shorten the session I think we can get a wider variety of what many people would say is your average citizens who can come up here and stay close to the constituents back home and can pass good legislation, “said Rep. Nathan Ballentine a Republican from Richland County.

Not everyone’s a fan of the idea, President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell says he doesn’t want lawmakers rushing through important legislation. Opponents say another problem they have is that it could lead to a lack of transparency with meetings outside of the session.

“You will create a legislative racetrack, and the key is to produce things that have a positive result on the public not something that’s an instantaneous action. So I would tell you I don’t understand these people who run for office and then come up here and complain about how long they gotta stay up here,” said McConnell, a Republican from Williamsburg.

“In my opinion it has a double benefit, saves the tax payers money, makes us more efficient and opens up the process,” said Horne.

Horne says the bill is still in committee. Several lawmakers say they’ve sponsors and or passed similar legislation in previous years, but it dies in the senate.