The session that won’t end…

By law, each year the General Assembly adjourns “sine die” on the first Thursday of June. Historically, the House and Senate come back at a later date to usually take care of budgetary matters and occasionally a few other items. When we return, it’s usually for a few days.

This year, the SC Supreme Court already ruled against a call to return to work the week following our “sine die” adjournment. The call, by the Governor, was for the General Assembly (specifically, the Senate) to finish work on several restructuring bills. With the Supreme Court ruling against that return, the House and Senate didn’t come back in session until last week which was per the “sine die” resolution. The work was brief in the House; longer in the Senate. Now we appear to be on track to return this week AND again for the following week.

The question is WHEN will the session end?

On deck appears to be final House and Senate votes on the budget, further redistricting debate (primarily differences between House and Senate lines for the new US Congressional seat), a possible vote to amend the “sine die resolution” to open debate/consideration of those restructuring bills, and lastly gubernatorial vetoes. I say lastly; however, should the “sine die resolution” be amended to consider other bills, we could see extended debate in both chambers on those bills, long after we address budget vetoes.

If I had a consultant, he’d tell me to stop writing right now because it would appear that I’m tired of working for the state. That’s not the point of my post. The point is that we must find a better way to (a) conduct our state’s business in a more efficient/timely manner and (b) keep a schedule that encourages average citizens to want to run and serve.

How do other state assemblies throughout the country get the people’s work done in less time? How do other assemblies convene every other year instead of every year?

My question (and several officials and constituents) is why can’t we get the work done sooner? Earlier this year, I wrote about a bill that would slightly shorten our session . In my opinion, and others, the pros far outweigh the cons.

So now, with summer among us and as we try to focus on our paying job and family, we wonder when the session will end. Months ago, “the plan” was to adjourn the first Thursday in June and then return in August to debate redistricting. Based on that, several members coordinated their “real world” schedules accordingly. When things change, it causes frustration among all parties.

For officials, it’s the challenge to reschedule “the real world” (work, family,etc) or either miss the debate and votes. (And when some votes require 2/3 approval instead of a simple majority, everyone’s attendance and vote is vital)

For constituents, it’s the anger of “why can’t you get your work done on time? How much time do y’all waste January through June?”

For taxpayers, it’s additional expense of their tax dollars every day we’re in session.

Whatever the calendar has in store for us, I hope we finally finish the people’s work soon and hopefully in a way that best serves our state.

For interesting statistics on legislatures across the country, click the links below or click here to find information compiled for SC:

47.9% of elected state legislators are between the ages of 50 and 64
23.6% of elected state legislators are 65 and older
28.1% of elected state legislators are either full-time legislators or retired