The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

SC Legislators Legislate Too Long

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Government in South Carolina is not only too big, it’s too long. The General Assembly is baaack, from June 15 to June 17, to take up the governor’s vetoes. That’s five months, and one of the longest state legislative sessions in the nation. A new Policy Council Issue Brief examines how a shorter legislative session would cut costs and streamline government.

By contrast, the Texas Legislature meets only once every two years, for a maximum of 140 calendar days. A few states place no limits on the length of the legislative session, but most have decided that 60 to 90 calendar days is plenty.

Regardless of the length of the legislative session, nearly all states require a recorded roll call vote before a bill can become a law. In South Carolina, some lawmakers have opposed efforts to require roll call voting by saying it takes too long. Somehow, running South Carolina is so much more complex than similar states with shorted legislative sessions that lawmakers here think they don’t have time to cast votes on the record.

“Parkinson’s Law” states that work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for its completion. That might seem to be the case in South Carolina, based on the flurry of activity that takes place in the waning days of the session. In reality, most of that activity is political strategy—bills quietly set aside to let the debate settle, with hopes of a last minute end-run. In any event, giving the Legislature more time legislating hasn’t proven to be beneficial to citizens of South Carolina; just more time for more mischief.

The long legislative session also means many creative, qualified individuals can’t afford the time it takes to serve in the General Assembly. It’s one reason the old guard stays in power for years—decades even.


Written by Robert Appel

June 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm

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