09 March 2010

Clocking the Legislature

With the 60-day session concluding at midnight Saturday (corrected), the Charleston Daily Mail asks whether the length of the Legislature's annual get-together is "too long, too short or just right."

The article said critics consider the regular session "too long and thus hammers taxpayers with needless expense," and believe that "legislators dawdle for most of the two months and do little or nothing until the very end."

The Associated Press examined this bit of conventional wisdom in 2008, by focusing on how the House and Senate each spent their daily floor sessions.

The results: over the course of the 60 days, "legislators spent two-thirds of their time on the key task assigned them by voters: to craft, advance and vote on bills." And while the session's opening days "were heavy on ceremony, as bills had only started the legislative process," daily floor sessions began to exhibit the overall trend before the halfway point.

In its article, the Daily Mail noted an observation from Brenda Nichols Harper, a longtime lobbyist and former state official, who said that "some people - lawyers, included - are unaware of how much work it takes to make a law. 'They come up here and they think you can pull a rabbit out of a hat,'" Harper is quoted as saying.

AP has also tried to assess the Legislature's pace with an ongoing analysis of the committee process, and expects to report on the results following the session.

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