By Sarita Chourey –
COLUMBIA — Aiken Sen. Tom Young has repeatedly tried to convince his colleagues to shorten the legislative session, but this time, the Republican lawmaker believes support is building. Current law requires the South Carolina Legislature to start on the second Tuesday of January of each year and to end no later than 5 p.m. on the first Thursday in June, unless two-thirds vote of both chambers vote to extend it. Young said Monday that a combination of factors drive him to push for a pared-down legislative session, specifically an interest in saving people time, saving taxpayers money and making state elected office a more accessible opportunity to more people. “The length of the session does deter some people from serving, I would think,” said Young, an Aiken attorney who first served in the S.C. House of Representatives.
Indeed, many have argued that the time commitment necessary to serve in the Legislature is most suitable for retirees or the independently wealthy, who need not seek an employer’s permission to spend weeks in Columbia. In South Carolina, taxpayers pay lawmakers $10,400 per year, plus subsistence and travel money, $600 per session for postage,and $1,000 per month in-district expense. Those with leadership posts collect more pay. A subcommittee meeting on Young’s bill, S. 267, was planned for Tuesday before it was canceled, likely because of flood damage,according to officials. Young’s bill is among at least two others that would trim the number of days lawmakers spend in the state Capitol, a change that could also mean trimming power, too, and limiting legislative debates to more basic functions of government. Young did not have an estimate for how much money his legislation would save taxpayers.
Still, he’s pushing the change once more. “There was a lot more interest in the 2013-2014 session, so I filed it again,” he said. Lawmakers completed the first year of the two-year General Assembly in June. They will return to Columbia in January. Meanwhile, other states’ legislatures meet for a much shorter time. The Georgia General Assembly, for instance, meets 40 days per year.