The Buzz

SC House measure aims to limit ceremony, keep chamber on task

Some S.C. House members say they’re spending too much time introducing school groups, beauty pageant winners and other constituents who drop by the State House, and they want to increase their productivity by limiting those formalities.

A proposal advanced to the House floor Tuesday would create a 15-minute time slot on the calendar for “special introductions,” with each limited to 90 seconds.

The measure’s sponsor, state Rep. Todd Atwater, said he’s frustrated by the multiple daily interruptions.

“It’s to bring a little bit more order and diligence to the House,” said Atwater, R-Lexington. “We’ve allowed it to go too far.”

More than 50 co-sponsors have signed on since Atwater introduced the proposed rule change last week.

While it formalizes when visiting Girl Scouts, for example, could be recognized, it leaves plenty of opportunity for ceremony.

The change wouldn’t affect championship high school teams and bands, who take the floor twice a week – up to two a day – to get a framed resolution celebrating their win. Also unaffected would be the “doctor of the day” introductions.

And unexpected visitors to the gallery still could be presented outside of the 15-minute slot – either during the chamber’s normally 30-minute-long quorum-call before business begins or during the two minutes members get to take each roll call vote.

Atwater said he’s trying to end middle-of-debate recognitions that particularly are distracting. He hasn’t calculated how long the House spends on various presentations, though he has considered bringing in a stop watch.

“I just know mentally it drives me insane because it’s too much,” he said. “We need to show the people we’re serious about the business of the House while balancing that with the ceremonial aspects.”

The House’s longest-serving member, state Rep. Grady Brown, D-Lee, was the lone Rules Committee member opposing the measure.

If constituents take the time to drive to Columbia and visit the chamber, they ought to be recognized whenever it’s convenient for them, he said.

“I’m against taking away any input the public can have,” said Brown, who has been in the House since 1985.