There has been a lot of talk in recent years about how the North Carolina General Assembly is starting to look and sound more and more like Congress — especially when it comes to the influence of big dollars from corporate fat cats and plain old, general dysfunction.
Today, we got another persuasive indicator: Legislators announced plans to take an “August recess.” Oh, they may not be calling it that, but this morning’s news that House and Senate leaders plan to pass a FY2015 budget this week, adjourn temporarily and then come back in mid-August to deal with the coal ash crisis that’s been simmering for months — years, really — and then recess again and come back in November after the election signifies a change in how business gets done on Jones Street.
Traditionally, when North Carolina lawmakers conclude the second-year-in-the-biennium “short” session in early summer, they adjourn until the following January. This may not be the best set-up, but it does force lawmakers to wrap up their business and maintain the General Assembly’s status as a “part-time” legislature.
This new development is enough to make a body suspicious as to the motives of those behind it. After all, the coal ash issue is already well-past ripe for attention. The disaster on the Dan River happened in February. Tomorrow is August 1, for crying out loud. Could the move be driven by the fact that House Speaker Thom Tillis is desperate to get in some fundraising and campaigning in his U.S. Senate bid?
And a mid-November session? Given the record of current legislative leaders for dark-of-the-night maneuvers, that sounds suspiciously like a plan to pass dangerous and unpopular proposals that might anger voters if held prior to the fall election.
The bottom line: As much as it pains me to say it, legislators should stay in Raleigh and finish the work they started.