As we saw last week when they rammed a health care “repeal” bill through committee with scarcely any notice and without allowing public comment, it didn’t take long for the new conservative majority in the North Carolina House of Representatives to forget all those pledges about open process and transparency.
Today, the GOP’s affinity for corner-cutting when it comes to process arose again. It was a subtle matter that some would dismiss as “inside baseball,” but it does appear to reflect a change in the way things are going to be handled at the General Assembly. At a minimum, it ought to raise a few eyebrows.
The setting was the new “Subcommittee B” of the House Judiciary Committee chaired by House Majority Leader and conservative ideologue, Paul “the Democrats squealed like stuck pigs” Stam. The subject of the meeting, ironically enough, was House Bill 3 – a measure that Stam has long championed to do away with checks (i.e. “process”) when it comes excluding evidence illegally obtained by law enforcement. Stam is the lead sponsor of the bill.
During the meeting, HB 3 was the only bill under consideration. However, in a rather interesting and subtle development, Rep. Stam did not surrender the chair as is the longstanding tradition in the legislature when a committee takes up a chairperson’s bill. Instead, he continued to preside over a committee examining his bill – calling on members, interjecting his opinion, etc….
This may seem like a small matter, but some people clearly noticed the shift. When Rep. Alice Bordsen inquired about the matter, Stam offhandedly (some might even say “testily”) dismissed the issue and noted that the committee was just “discussing the bill” and that he would turn the gavel over to another person next week when he intended to call for a vote on the matter.
But to pretend that Stam’s chairing of the committee didn’t influence the discussion today – who was called on, when and how the matter was presented to begin with – is simply wrong; It did influence matters in a subtle but real way.
The bottom line would appear to be this: Now that they’re in power, Republicans like it a lot and are intent upon getting their way. Don’t hold your breath as you wait for them to live up to all their previous promises about opening up the process on Jones Street.