The South Carolina Senate voted unanimously Thursday to shorten the legislative session by a month, which would save taxpayers almost $350,000 a year. Sessions now end on the first Thursday in June, but would end on the first Thursday in May if this bill were to become law.
The vote is significant because the South Carolina House has passed bills ten times in previous years to shorten the session, only to have them die in the Senate. While the Senate vote was unanimous, it was on second reading, so it will take one more vote in the Senate to send the bill to the House.
Maleeah Williams of Columbia says, “A pro would be that we get to save money, but I think a con would be that there are so many things to discuss and they only have a short amount of time, and to cut it even more probably wouldn’t benefit anybody.”
James Street of Columbia says, “I think it’s a bad idea. Shortening the session gives people less time to deliberate, gives people less time to decide what they’re actually going to do.”
And William Maxwell of Columbia says, “I don’t think they need any reason to work less than they already are.”
But Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, the main sponsor of the bill, says there are two good reasons for it. “It will save the taxpayers some money, number one. And number two, it will potentially make it where more people would have the opportunity to offer for public service in the General Assembly,” he says. He says now, many people who might want to run for the House or Senate can’t afford to be at the Statehouse three days a week from the second week of January until the first Thursday of June. Cutting the session by a month might make it an option for more people, he says.
As for the argument that lawmakers don’t get enough accomplished now so it’s a bad idea to give them even less time, he says a shorter session would force them to be more efficient. And he points out that most other states have shorter sessions than South Carolina does.
He also says lawmakers already take furlough weeks during the session as a way to save money. The House did not meet this week or last, while the Senate didn’t meet two weeks ago. He says that shows lawmakers are already shortening their sessions.