Commentary

General Assembly heads home for a month; good news sparse

The North Carolina General Assembly finally adjourned the 2017 “long session” early this morning — kind of, anyway. As Laura Leslie of WRAL reported:

“State lawmakers unveiled an adjournment resolution Thursday night that will bring them back to town in August, September and then again by November to draw new legislative districts.

For many years, the state’s part-time legislature went home in the summer after the long session in odd years and didn’t return until after the primary elections the following year. But beginning with the Republican takeover in 2011, that practice changed, and “extra” or special sessions became standard procedure in interim periods.

The resolution unveiled in the House Rules Committee on Thursday is closer to a punctuated recess than an adjournment.

It mandates that lawmakers will return on Aug. 3, a Thursday, to consider overrides of any vetoes issued in the interim by Gov. Roy Cooper, as well as the impeachment of state officials, conference committee agreements struck in the interim or any other live bills eligible for the session.

The bill sets the next convening date on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at which time lawmakers can take up judicial redistricting – a proposal that remains on hold after its unveiling Monday in the House Judiciary I Committee – as well as city and county redistricting. That session could also include veto overrides, constitutional amendments, appointment confirmations, impeachment of state officials and litigation.

The September convening is also expected to include a resolution to reconvene before Nov. 15 to redraw and vote on new legislative district maps. After that, the next specified date would be the 2018 short session, starting on the fairly late date of May 16.”

Whatever the rationale or details of the legislature’s departure, caring and thinking people will take it. The 2017 session was, for the most part, another dreadful one for the state and it’s good to have the honorables out of town — if even for just a month.  As Chris Fitzsimon explained the other day:

“There were a few noteworthy achievements this year, most notably ending the practice of trying 16- and 17-year-olds who commit crimes as adults and the passage of legislation to improve the state’s expunction laws to allow people who make mistakes to move on with their lives.

But overall, forward-looking legislation was few and far between this session. Legislative leaders were more interested in power and revenge. Far-right ideology was on display too but this year it came with an even more bitter edge with a little old fashioned corruption thrown in for good measure.

The budget included a giveaway to a chemical company represented by a former Republican House Speaker and $100 million in spending in projects that were added to the budget at the last minute to reward allies of the leadership and feather the nests of their own districts.

It was the perfect ending to a session that did not feature any vision or plan for the future of the state, just spite and payback and anger from legislative leaders, all in the shadow of the President they support who has made an art form out of bullying and intimidation and has the historically low approval ratings to show for it.”

To make matters worse, lawmakers only doubled down on the themes Chris lamented in his column. In area after area, partisan payback, ideological crusades and giveaways to favored special interests were the top legislative priorities as the session careered toward adjournment.

Stay tuned to NC Policy Watch throughout the day and next week as we dig into and report on the details of the actions lawmakers took in the last hours of the session.

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