Recognize legislative priorities

The South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

Nine days ago, 28 pieces of legislation were scheduled to be introduced to the S.C. House of Representatives. Of those, six were bills that pertained to issues like firearms laws, a call for a constitutional convention and declaring a new wildlife sanctuary.

The rest, scattered throughout the day’s agenda, were to honor athletic teams, community servants, a woman’s birthday and a school’s anniversary.

There’s nothing wrong with elected officials recognizing outstanding people and events in their communities. Indeed, it’s important that representatives be aware of those outstanding accomplishments.

Further, the more that high school athletes and other youth observe and learn something about how state government works — and maybe even have their interest piqued — the better.

But Rep. Todd Atwater, R-Lexington, is right when he says that such interruptions need to be better coordinated so as not to interfere with the weightier work before the House.

He has submitted a rule change that would corral all those special introductions into a specific 15-minute time slot with each presentation limited to 90 seconds. Not only would that allow House members to focus on their work, but it would let groups know ahead of time when they would be commended.

And when groups or individuals stay a while to see just what their elected representatives do, they might see them engaged in an in-depth, meaningful dialogue instead of stopping over and over to recognize visitors.

Rep. Atwater said the public should see that “we’re serious about the business of the House, while balancing that with the ceremonial aspects.”

Further, he said, it is difficult to keep a train of thought when debate is interrupted so often.

More than 50 other representatives signed on as cosponsors of the rule change, which passed the Rules Committee with only one opposing vote. That was Rep. Grady Brown, D-Bishopville, who sees the change as “taking away ... input the public can have.”

But the rule would still allow for introductions, just in a more organized and deliberate way.

People have to have appointments to see their dentists. Why would they not expect to be given a specific time to see the House?

And perhaps the House will get the state’s business done on time and in a more efficient way.