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By Mia Butler Garrick || Well here we “grow” again. Just when you think we had already wasted enough time (and money) at the State House, Governor Haley pulls another fast one on us with Thursday’s “surprise” announcement that she’s ordering lawmakers back to work next week – at taxpayers’ expense of course – to the tune of at least $42,500 per day.

Sadly, it’s her legislative agenda, not the people’s agenda, that she’s trying to cram down South Carolina’s throat.  It’s not as if the stars aren’t already magnificently aligned.  I mean … we’ve got a Republican controlled House and Senate, a Republican Governor and Republicans in charge of every Constitutional office.  What more could she need to push the Tea Party’s…oops, I mean “The People’s” agenda?  But Governor Haley has, with Thursday’s announcement, resurrected and revealed a new mantra … “By Any Means Necessary (BAMN!)”  Actually, if you’re a student of history, you know it’s not new. But what’s really surprising is that our dear Governor appears to have adopted it.

After five long months of debates, debacles and hypocrisies, coupled with a mega-dose of partisan politics, haven’t we done enough damage already?  At least June 3, the official end of the legislative session, offered a glimmer of hope that we were nearing the end of the insanity. After all, we knew that we would have to return on June 14th to deal with the budget and redistricting, but the Governor’s announcement that she’s ordering us to come back next week for a special “open-ended” session as a last minute, desperate ploy to get her Restructuring bills passed this session, is way over the top!

First, she commends the House for completing its work, as it should have. Then, she says the reason she’s ordering us back next week is because the Senate still has unfinished business and is asking for more time. There are several reasons why the rhetoric and reality (once again) don’t add up:

1. The Senate, on Thursday, not only questioned the Governor’s constitutional authority to bring us back, but (so far) has declined to return next week, despite the Governor’s request. So … who’s asking for more time again?

2. If Restructuring is such a “hot ticket” item on the TP’s (that would be Tea Party’s) agenda, then why have we wasted countless hours over the last five months at the State House talking about voter ID, constitutional conventions, abortion rights, light bulbs and collard greens?

3. Even if the Senate does have unfinished business, obviously it is satisfied that the upcoming special session on June 14 provides adequate time to address those issues—and at a significantly lower cost to taxpayers. But wait, those (RINO) Restructuring in Name Only bills won’t be included!  Guess that’s why it’s all or nothing next Tuesday… and BAMN!

Now Governor Haley, in her quest to get these RINO bills passed by any means necessary, threw in another little trick to put lawmakers on the spot and (hopefully) convince the public that it’s only right for us to return to complete her agenda items on our dime, not taxpayers’.  hat sounds really good, because it takes the focus off of the fact that but for the Governor calling us back for this open-ended special session, taxpayers wouldn’t have to foot the $42,500 per day bill, plus lodging and other incidental expenses, at a time when South Carolina can least afford it. But what the governor doesn’t mention is that it’s illegal to call the legislature back in for a special session without pay. Not only is she pouting publicly about not getting her way, but now she’s asking lawmakers to do something illegal? Seriously?

My work in the House for the official session is complete. Like many other legislators, my family and I have willingly made countless sacrifices when it comes to quality family time, additional expenses, etc. Serving in the General Assembly takes an extraordinary amount of time away from our homes, our families and our jobs, but we knowingly and willingly take on these tremendous challenges and responsibilities from January until June, which is more than enough time to adequately address the issues and move our state forward in a positive and meaningful way.

I’m a small business owner and like many of you, every hour I spend away from my business has a significant cost associated with it. My days and weeks this Summer and Fall are already accounted for, so returning next week at my expense is not even a viable option. In fact, my business will lose money everyday we’re forced to return. And for what? We’ve had five months to get the state’s work done. We’ve wasted a lot of time already, but fortunately, the House has finished its work and can do nothing unless and until the Senate does the same. Isn’t it ironic that the very people who keep talking about less government, don’t mind growing it significantly to suit their own partisan political agendas? That’s all we’ll be doing if the Governor forces 170 House and Senate members to come back unnecessarily next week. And unless some “backroom deals” have already been cut, there are no guarantees that we’ll even consider or pass the RINO bills that are the new “must-haves” on Governor Haley’s hit list.

Perhaps our Governor is independently wealthy, but for those of us who must work hard on and in our small businesses every day just to make ends meet, time is money and both are precious commodities that many of us don’t have to waste.

It’s unfortunate that even at the end of the legislative session, we still seem to be running low on substance and high on rhetoric. And while I support real government restructuring and reform, and voted for the majority of these RINO bills before realizing that they really don’t change much, they can certainly wait until we reconvene in January. Do you think these bills are worthy of an Executive Order to bring us back next Tuesday at taxpayers’ expense?

Take a look:

A. Creation of Department of Administration – voted for it because I thought it was gonna replace our infamous Budget & Control Board.  Oops!  Wrong again…Unless something changes in the Senate, we’ll basically have two administrative agencies running the state.  Just when you thought government was shrinking…

B. Governor to Appoint the Superintendent of Education – voted for this one too, because I think it’s important for the Governor to have full accountability and responsibility for the state of Education in South Carolina.

C. Governor & Lieutenant Governor on the same ticket – this makes sense to me.  Why not?

D. Consolidation of Probation, Parole & Pardon & Dept. of Corrections – Voted against it because it saves no money and these agencies provide separate and distinct services.  If we’re serious about consolidating and actually saving tax dollars – let’s start with the Dept. of Administration (actually replacing the B&CB).

For those who seem to think that this latest stunt is no big deal because former Governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, have called lawmakers back over the years, let me remind you that when they did, unemployment wasn’t at an all-time high, morale among our citizens wasn’t at an all-time low and our state’s economy wasn’t struggling to recover. So whether you subscribe to the “good ole boy” or “good ole gal” system of governance, if “BAMN!” is gonna be our state’s new mantra, then maybe we should think of a few other bills we need to resurrect and reconsider while we’re growing government.

Next time you tune in for what you thought was fiscal conservatism 101 at your State House, just remember that the rules of engagement are subject to change at any time – especially if your Governor doesn’t get her way before the official legislative session ends. Turns out, under the new rules … less (government) really is more.

One thing’s for sure … we want what we want when we want it. We’re willing to spare no expense and do whatever it takes to further the Tea Party’s partisan political agenda.

Some legislative sessions end with a “bang!” Others end on a much softer note. This one … well, this may just be the session that never ends. So, tune in next week as the showdown between the Governor and lawmakers continues.

Your tax dollars are footing the bill, so you may as well grab some popcorn, get a good seat and enjoy the show.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mia Butler represents District 79 in the S.C. House of Representatives. To read her bio, click here.