Elephant in the Chamber

April 16, 2015

Inside Insight

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ariail elephant in the chamber

SPENDING TIME ON THE THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER

“The night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). Now there’s a biblical line that South Carolina lawmakers ought to take more seriously.

South Carolina has one of the longest legislative sessions in the United States, and as a result our lawmakers have plenty of time to pass resolutions honoring counties, congratulating basketball teams and beauty queens, naming roads and bridges after themselves, and naming official state fruits and vegetables and heritage animals; welcoming local chambers of commerce to the gallery and pronouncing “doctors of the day” (don’t ask); and generally clowning around and passing hokey gestures that do and mean nothing.

That’s bad enough. The real problem with South Carolina’s half-year session, however, is the amount of time it affords lawmakers to do the wrong thing. Long legislative sessions allow elected officials to spend more time with lobbyists, “consultants” (which is often just another word for lobbyists), and other representatives of special interests. Bills often begin life as substantive reform legislation – bills on deleting special interest tax favors, capping spending, fostering accountability in government, mandating transparency, tightening ethics laws, cutting needless regulation, expanding choice in education and medical care – but the longer these bills sit in committee, the longer our lawmakers have to confer with special interests about what should and shouldn’t be in them, and the weaker they become. The longer they languish, the more loopholes they acquire.

So yes, time is money – in this case, public money – and state lawmakers have too much of both.

—The Nerve