by Locker Room contributor
If the rules and procedures of the General Assembly make your eyes glaze over, skip this post (unless you’re ready for an afternoon nap).
Today’s N.C. House debate on H.B. 1847 points to one of the quirks of legislative procedure.
First, some background.
We all know from our school days (or at least from the Schoolhouse Rock song “I’m Just a Bill”) that a piece of legislation needs support from both chambers of a bicameral legislature and the signature of the executive to become law.
In North Carolina, this usually means that a bill starts in the state House or Senate. If the initial chamber approves the bill — as originally written or amended — the bill then heads to the other chamber. The second chamber has four options. First, they can leave the bill in a committee — essentially killing it. Second, the second chamber can vote against the bill and kill it. (Lawmakers rarely employ this technique, since it limits their options for negotiation and compromise.)
Third, the second chamber can approve the bill without changes and send it to the governor. Fourth, the second chamber can change (or amend) the bill and send it back to the original chamber.
If the second chamber picks option number four, the original chamber is left with two options. First, the original chamber can accept (or concur with) the second chamber’s changes and send the bill to the governor. A vote to accept the changes without amendment is called a concurrence vote.
Second, the original chamber can reject the changes and set up a negotiating committee (called a conference committee) with the second chamber. (This is standard operating procedure during debates over the state budget.)
Now let’s return to H.B. 1847 for an example of the process at work. This bill started life in the House as a bill called “Treasurer training.” It targeted new rules for treasurers of legislative campaign committees.
The House approved the bill and sent it to the Senate. The Senate stripped the treasurer training language from the bill and stuck that language into another House bill. Meanwhile, senators substituted language into H.B. 1847 from another House bill (H.B. 1850) that had yet to clear a House committee.
Senators approved the new version of H.B. 1847 and returned it to the House.
Here’s where the procedural quirk kicks in. House leaders supported the ideas contained in the new version of H.B. 1847. They pushed for a concurrence vote.
That means the full House was asked to approve without amendment a measure it had never seen before.
A couple of House members noted their concerns about the procedure, but the House approved the Senate bill 87-27.