This morning’s email box provided yet another reminder of the crazy and backasswards way conservative leaders are running the North Carolina General Assembly these days. It was a simple enough thing: an emailed notice from the chairs of the House Select Committee on Education Reform providing notice that that the group would meet on Wednesday, February 8.
“What’s wrong with such a notice?” you ask. Well, nothing — that’s the point.
Everyday, my email box is crowded with official notices from groups like this — mere study committees with no authority to do anything other than make recommendations — that provide weeks worth of notice to the public, the media and advocates. And while it would have been nice if this morning’s notice had included an agenda for the meeting (some do, some don’t), at least by providing such notice, interested parties have been given plenty of time to find out what the plan is for the meetings, to get their people there and maybe even to have a say. Pretty simple, huh?
Now contrast this with the rash of special legislative sessions we’ve been having lately. Mind you, these are actual lawmaking sessions in which decision have been made that impact thousands and thousands — if not millions — of people. In each of these instances the official notice provided by House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger was much less — if not, essentially, nonexistent.
Most of the time, lawmakers themselves didn’t even know what the plan was (or even what time sessions would actually get around to taking action). The Midnight Madness session, of course, took this abusive method of running things to an even more extreme and absurd level.
The bottom line: Right now, we think we know that legislative leaders plan to return to Raleigh on Thursday, February 16. Other than that, no one knows anything. There has been no meaningful notice, calendar or statement from the people in charge.
Legislative leaders can and should address this ridiculous problem immediately by providing full notice ahead of time — at least a few days and ideally a week or two — that tells everyone when they will convene and what will be on the agenda. The conservatives may have the votes to do whatever they want, but they are messing with democracy when they deny the public and their representatives the opportunity to witness their decisions and be heard.