SC Legislature takes days off amid COVID, security worries
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The full House and Senate in South Carolina are taking a few days off next week, including Wednesday’s presidential inauguration day when the FBI has warned state governments there could be violence at their capitols.
With the session just beginning this week, leaders in both chambers said there is little work for the full bodies to do because bills have to pass through committees first.
Combine some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases during the nine-month pandemic and the threat to the Statehouse and other capitols and it made sense to let members work from home, they said.
“We were already planning to take a couple of days next week,” Senate President Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, said. “Out of an abundance of caution entered into it too.”
State officials have said they are taking the warning from the FBI seriously, but have not said if there are any detailed threats. Security has been increased at the Statehouse as the 2021 session started Tuesday. Police in uniform and agents in fatigues have joined the regular Statehouse security staff in suits.
Both Peeler and House Speaker Jay Lucas are asking members to hold as many subcommittee and committee hearings virtually as they can. The House changed its rules this week specifically to allow it.
Lucas said if the House met in person next week, they would not be doing much more than meeting in committees anyway.
“If we would come back Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we would essentially come in, sign in, take announcements and go back to committee meetings,” Lucas said.
The Senate will again meet in full Jan. 21. The House plans to come back Jan. 26.
Both the House and Senate have attempted in recent years to take time off during the 18-week session, but they have looked to having breaks in the spring when families might have a week off from school and the other chamber was dealing with the budget.
The pandemic essentially ended the 2020 session in mid-March except for emergency items, but also led both chambers to start looking into virtual meetings.
Lucas urged House committees to do as much as they can from home next week.
“We will see how that goes,” Lucas said. “Obviously, I’m excited about the possibility of seeing what we can do with that.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.