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SC Legislature: Special Session Speculation




Is something serious about to go down at the S.C. State House?  Or is it much ado about nothing?

That’s what South Carolina political observers – and many state lawmakers – are wondering after a surprise decision by embattled S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell to convene a special session of the House of Representatives later this month.

Harrell has summoned House members to Columbia, S.C. on August 27 at 2:00 p.m. – ostensibly to address a pair of gubernatorial vetoes that remain unresolved from the 2014 legislative session.  One veto struck down a law seeking to give librarians more authority in dealing with disruptive patrons.

The other veto – which lawmakers seem to believe is the impetus for Harrell’s decision – struck down a law that would have permitted a tax hike in Horry County.  The second veto was especially surprising seeing as Haley previously signed legislation authorizing up to $1.7 billion in local tax hikes.

Anyway …

One lawmaker – former S.C. majority leader Jimmy Merrill – publicly expressed surprise that Harrell would summon all 124 House members back to Columbia over such minor bills.

“It’s a little different to come back for such a small amount of legislation,” Merrill told reporter Jeremy Borden of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.

Numerous lawmakers who spoke with FITS echoed that sentiment – wondering amongst themselves whether something else was afoot.

“It makes no sense,” one told us, saying Harrell had “terrible timing” by scheduling a session just prior to the Labor Day holiday.

Another lawmaker said Harrell’s notification of members seemed “disjointed.”

Every lawmaker we spoke with agreed that Harrell was not “going where the body guides him,” as his spokesman told The Post and Courier .

So what gives?

Conspiracy theories abound – including rumors that Harrell may be feeling pressure from federal investigators in connection with the ongoing investigation into his alleged public corruption.  Others suggest Harrell may be using the special session as an excuse to “count votes” in advance of this year’s Speaker’s election – which will be held following the November 2014 elections.

Others claim Harrell’s move is designed to enable lawmakers to expense travel costs associated with attending the University of South Carolina’s home football opener against Texas A&M the following day.

Lawmakers close to Harrell downplayed the rumor mill – saying the House was merely finishing business that was left unattended when lawmakers left town earlier this year.

“The House has been known to criticize the Senate for not acting on legislation sent over to them,” one Harrell confidant told FITS. “If we are failing to act on legislation they send over to us, we can’t do that.”

Whatever the purpose of the special session, it will cost taxpayers as much as $40,000 if all 124 House members show up.