As noted in this space last Friday, the rules of the North Carolina House of Representatives clearly require that lawmakers refer the conference report on the 2016-17 budget to a standing committee for review prior to the full House vote that is scheduled for tomorrow.
House Rule 44(b) states that:
“a conference committee report which includes significant matters that were not in difference between the houses, shall be referred to a standing committee for its recommendation before further action by the House.”
The obvious point of this rule is to prevent lawmakers from cooking up new law changes that were not included in either of the original versions of the bill passed by the House or the Senate and then inserting them in to a conference report that’s negotiated and drafted in secret. It is, in other words, a modest but important rule to assure a modicum of sunshine and transparency so that rank and file lawmakers, the news media and the public at large can have at least some idea of what the hell it is that’s being voted on.
Though everyone is still sifting through the massive 429 page document, here are two significant matters that are in the conference report that were not in either version of the budget passed previously:
#1 – As Chris Fitzsimon pointed out this morning, the conference report includes a new and hugely destructive provision to undermine light rail plans in the Triangle.
#2 – A new, out-of-whole-cloth change to state law on the number of so-called terminal groins that will be allowed along the coastline (see page 207 of the report).
These are both extremely important law changes that were never approved by either House throughout the eight month-long legislative session. Read more