COLUMBIA -- Hugs, handshakes and back slaps were the order of the day as lawmakers returned to work Tuesday after a six-month break.
Many of the 169 legislators -- one House post is vacant -- focused on catching up with those they haven't seen in a while amid a light workload.
"Everybody gets reacquainted, finds out what happened to each other in the off-season and what's ahead," said House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Harrison, R-Richland.
Former lawmakers U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson dropped by while lobbyists filled the Statehouse to promote their causes.
As is traditional, the return was long on ritual and short on substance, with parties and receptions awaiting. The slow start will last for a few weeks as lawmakers get up to speed about pending bills.
Committees will start wading through proposals today, while budget-writing panels will begin poring over spending proposals from Gov. Mark Sanford and others.
No one took opening-day shots at Sanford even though his relations with fellow Republicans in charge of the General Assembly are chilly. One of his chief critics, Lexington County Sen. Jake Knotts, focused on recognizing two soldiers, including his son-in-law, who are in the area while on leave from Afghanistan.
Four new lawmakers got their first taste of legislative life. Edgefield Republican Sen. Shane Massey said lawmakers have a big challenge ahead.
"There is a real frustration throughout this country with the way that elected representatives have been governing," he said.
"The good people who make this state what it is -- I'm talking about the folks out there who are doing the real work -- they deserve better, and they expect more."