If there’s been one area in which the current leadership of the General Assembly has been at its most cynical when it comes to directly contradicting past promises and rhetoric, it’s almost certainly in the area of legislative process. It’s gotten to the point at which it seems that scarcely an important piece of legislation advances on Jones Street without some kind of abuse of legislative rules (or, at least, the spirit thereof). Whether they’re crafting budgets in secret, holding unannounced, middle-of-the-night sessions, providing lack of time and opportunity for public comment or just springing entirely new legislation out of thin air as last-minute amendments, both the House and the Senate have frequently seemed intent of bending every guideline of fair play and open government.
And, of course, the amazing thing about all of this is that it’s not even necessary even from a crass, down-to-brass-tacks political perspective. The leaders in both Houses have huge, rubber-stamp majorities that make such shenanigans utterly unnecessary. Sometimes it feels as if leaders are engaging in such exercises just because they can. See for example, last week’s decision by House leaders to spring a last-minute, out-of-nowhere amendment on Senate Education Committee chairman Jerry Tillman on Common Core legislation.
So, with the final days of the 2014 session apparently upon us, observers of the General Assembly will do well to pay very close attention over the next week or two. Indeed, the House Finance Committee meets at 5:00 pm today to take up a bill that’s been sitting on its calendar since last summer and that will almost certainly be gutted and entirely rewritten with a “committee substitute.”
The bottom line: Notwithstanding the Senate’s just-for-show talk of making budget negotiations open, it’s almost a certainty that the upcoming days will feature loads of secrecy and bad, behind-closed-doors lawmaking. Stay tuned and watch closely if your stomach can take it.