Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight met with reporters late Friday afternoon to talk about the upcoming General Assembly session and many of his remarks made it into the weekend legislative previews, including his thoughts about Medicaid, education, and mental health.
But most stories left out Basnight’s troubling and disturbing defense of special provisions in the state budget, substantive changes to state law stuck in the budget bill by legislative leaders generally with little or no debate.
It is the way outgoing House Speaker Jim Black set up the mandatory eye exams a couple of years ago. Ending the undemocratic practice is an important part of most reform agendas for the session, including the one proposed by the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.
It simply is abuse of the legislative process to allow powerful legislators to slide in sometimes secret provisions in the budget, forcing legislators to vote against the whole budget if they don’t agree with the special provision. It puts way to much power in the hands of a few legislators. Most preview stories mentioned that further legislative reforms would be on tap for this session. One columnist even cited the agenda of the Coalition as a good place to start this year.
But Basnight’s comments didn’t appear to make it in any preview stories. And he not only said that the use of special provisions will continue, he called them “important to the welfare of the state” and said that he “likes using the budget for that purpose.” Looks like the next stage of reform is not going to be easy.