Commentary

State lawmakers now avoiding constituents like members of Congress? G.A. suddenly alters Wednesday start times on anti-gerrymandering lobby day

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but if it is, it’s certainly one heck of a fluky development.

For several weeks now, anti-gerrymandering advocates have been planning and promoting a citizen “lobby day” at the North Carolina General Assembly for today. Like a lot of other organizations, the good government advocates are bringing a large group of North Carolinians to the Legislative Building to gather as a group and then meet with their lawmakers individually. For the past month, literally hundreds of citizen lobbyists have been making appointments with lawmakers — most of them for the time slot between early morning committee meetings and the traditional mid-afternoon start of the House and Senate floor sessions.

So guess what suddenly occurred late yesterday: the House and Senate both suddenly announced that floor sessions today would take place at 10:00 and 9:30, respectively. This is by far earliest start for both chambers on a Wednesday in 2017. Indeed, the Senate has never even had a morning start time on a Wednesday all year and the House has always convened at 2:00, with the exception of one 12:00 start. Legislators used similar tactics back during the heyday of the Moral Monday protests.

Maybe there’s a legitimate explanation for the last-minute switcheroo, but given the angry, combative and thin-skinned approach that conservative legislative leaders and many of their members have evidenced with respect to just about any criticism directed their way in recent years (and especially in recent months) it seems just as likely that this was an intentional scheme to avoid meeting with constituents. If so, it would also comport with the wimp-dog model being employed by GOP members of Congress across the country during the most recent Congressional recess when the traditional practice of holding town meetings suddenly evaporated for many lawmakers.

The bottom line: Reactionary state lawmakers can only hide out so long. They may successfully avoid their constituents at the General Assembly today, but they can’t avoid them forever. Let’s hope people keep demanding to be heard.

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