A proposal to shorten the states legislative session, which advanced in the House on Wednesday, may stand a chance of passing this year, Republican leaders say.
House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, is sponsoring the bill with several other lawmakers, including House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.
The bill calls for a constitutional amendment, which two-thirds of House and Senate members must approve. The question then would go to voters to decide. The House gave second reading approval to the bill Wednesday by a 91-9 margin. The House will read the bill one more time before sending it to the Senate.
Harrell said he was surprised the bill received as much support as it did.
What it tells you is that everybody here understands that the work that we do can be done in a shorter amount of time and save taxpayers money, Harrell said.
If adopted, the General Assembly would convene on the second Tuesday of February, instead of January, and would adjourn no later than the first Thursday in May of each year, rather than on the first Thursday in June. Lawmakers would be allowed to convene for committee meetings or hearings on the second Tuesday of January.
Each week the House is not in session would save taxpayers $50,000, Harrell said.
The savings would come from expense reimbursements related to travel. The bill would not change lawmakers annual salaries
Similar bills to shorten the session have passed the GOP-controlled House nine times since 1994, according to GOP leaders. Each time, the bill has died in the Republican-majority Senate.
Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland, said previous efforts to shorten the session failed because his predecessor and dear friend Glenn McConnell, now lieutenant governor, did not support shortening the session.
An attempt to reach McConnell for comment was unsuccessful.
We just have a difference in philosophy, said Courson, who introduced his own bill Wednesday to shorten the session.
Coursons bill would end the session in May but would not require a constitutional amendment or a voter referendum.
State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, said any plan to shorten the session has a better chance of passing this year because newer members support the idea.
State Rep. Walt McCloud, D-Newberry, voted against shortening the session Wednesday, saying doing so would harm the states budget process.
Lawmakers receive updated revenue estimates for the state throughout the start of the year. The revenue projections impact the budget process, which starts in the House and ends in the Senate.
We need to be here long enough to do the publics business and no longer, said Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington.
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