Commentary

Debate over “ag gag” bill shows why legislative process is important

Image: Citizens Against Ag-Gag Legislation Facebook page

Image: Citizens Against Ag-Gag Legislation Facebook page

[Update: The veto override motion on House Bill 405 passed the House today by a vote of 79-36 and the Senate by a vote of 32-15]. One of the most unfortunate developments at the North Carolina General Assembly in recent years has been the GOP majority’s affinity for shutting down debate. Though things have improved in the House somewhat since the departure of Thom Tillis, Republican leaders (many of whom complained mightily about the same practices while they were in the minority) have all too often turned to the cheap and lazy solution of limiting debate and public comment, pushing things through on voice votes (e.g. Senator Bob Rucho’s recently shameful performance) and/or using procedural bureaucracy to “table” amendments, rule them  “out of order” or to prevent them from even being offered in the first place.

Of course, the excuse that’s often advanced for the use of such tactics is that “everyone already knows how they’re going to vote” on XYZ bill and therefore, additional debate is just a “waste of time.”

If ever there was a bill that demonstrates the emptiness of such an excuse, however, it has to be the controversial “Ag gag” bill that Governor McCrory recently vetoed. When the measure first passed the House by a huge margin a few weeks ago during a rush of legislation, it received relatively little attention and was perceived as simply being about the issue of animal abuse. Since that time, however, things have changed — most notably that more and more people have actually read the proposal and begun to envision scenarios in which it would have a negative or even dangerous potential impact.

Now, today, as the House prepares to consider overriding the Governor’s veto, there is vastly more public attention and all sorts of problems that had not previously been considered are “on the table.” Moreover, numerous important groups that had simply missed the bill — from the AARP to disabled vets — are against it.

The veto may still be overridden and the proposal may well become law, but there can be little doubt that the state will be better off going forward for having had a much more thorough debate and for having a great deal more scrutiny on the issue.  Let’s hope fervently that the experieince teaches some important people a lesson about how democracy works best.

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