South Carolina’s regular legislative session would last only three months per year under a resolution that is headed to the House floor.
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday voted in favor of a joint resolution that would ask voters whether lawmakers should cut two months from their session in the Statehouse. The proposed constitutional amendment would move the official start date of statewide session from early January to the second Tuesday in February.
Lawmakers would still hold committee meetings in January as they prepare legislation for the full House and Senate. The regular session would then end on the first Tuesday in May instead of June, although legislators could still meet in special session after that to take up budget vetoes.
State Rep. Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) said the General Assembly can get the same amount of work done in a shorter time span. He says little happens outside of committee during the month of January, “This is a more efficient use of our time. To meet on the floor of the House with no bills on the calendar just to have a roll call and adjourn, we don’t need to do that until we actually need… to take something up.”
He said the bill would also save taxpayers the cost of mileage and daily expenses given to legislators while they are in Columbia. But Rep. Walt McLeod (D-Little Mountain) said a May dismissal was too early, since the state’s budget predictions are not finalized until May.
“The notion that we ought to crank down on the first Thursday in May is a nice thought,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting, “But, with respect to the budgetary process, it just won’t work.”
Bannister said lawmakers usually had a good expectation of what tax revenue would be by April.
Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Denmark) questioned how much money the state would actually save, since most legislators would head to Columbia for January committee meetings, anyway.
The committee passed the resolution by a voice vote, so an exact number of support and opposition is not known. McLeod could be heard saying “no” during the vote, however.
The House has passed several measures in the past few years that would have shortened the session, but all have died in the Senate. Bannister said he’s heard that there is “some appetite” to take up the idea in the upper chamber this year and House Republicans passed the bill out as quickly as possible to clear the Senate calendar.