by Becki Gray
Former Senior Vice President, John Locke Foundation
The North Carolina General Assembly is not gone, they’re not forgotten and they still can’t get along. The House plans to reconvene on Thursday. Although they have not passed an adjournment resolution, they did offer a list of what they’d consider. You can find it in House Joint Resolution 1276 which passed the House 93-14. Here’s the nifty nine matters that may be considered:
1. Any bills the governor vetoed. Since he didn’t veto any, that’s off the table.
2. Any claims or orders in litigation. With numerous cases pending against NC, including challenges to gay marriage ban, abortion clinic rules, opportunity scholarships and redistricting, the General Assembly must stand ready to act as needed to protect the laws of NC.
3. General Assembly appointments to public office. Senate bill 884, 2014 Appointments sits in the Senate Rules Committee. It includes recommendations for 43 appointments by Speaker Tillis, 39 by Speaker Pro Temp Berger and one each from the House majority leader and minority leader. Seats to the State Health Plan, the Coal Ash Management Commission, Environmental Management Commission, Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Mining and Energy Commission are just a few of the appointments in limbo. The House has already passed SB 884, 2014 Appointments Bill and the next required action is from the Senate. Can these appointments be delayed until November?
4. Coal Ash Management. Although we are hearing that an agreement is close on S729, Coal Ash Management Act, the only way the House could act with the Senate out of town would be to agree to the original Senate proposal. With tighter deadlines and other provisions relating to groundwater seepage, it is unlikely the House will sign on to the Senate version.
5. Environmental and natural resources laws. Senate Bill 38, Amend Environmental Laws is being held in the Senate Clerk’s office. Out of reach for the House.
6. Regulatory and Administrative Reforms. SB 734, Regulatory Reform Act of 2014 is in conference with conferees appointed. SB 493 Health and Safety Regulatory Reform is sitting in Senate Ways and Means which meets at the call of the chairman, Sen. Tom Apodaca.
7. Health insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorder. HB 498, Autism Health Insurance Coverage passed the House but ended up in the Senate Insurance Committee. The mandate for coverage showed up in other bills but never got past the Senate.
8. Technical and other changes to revenue laws. SB 763, Revenue Laws Technical Changes and other Changes is sitting in the Senate Rules Committee.
9. Confidentiality of unemployment compensation. SB 42, Confidentiality of UC Information is sitting in the Senate Rules Committee.
It takes two to tango and the Senate has made it clear, they aren’t interested in dancing. They passed their own adjournment resolution, the third edition of Senate Joint Resolution 881. They agreed to consider three things should they return on August 14:
The Senate passed their adjournment resolution with strong bipartisan support 40-3 on August 1. Senator Berger’s office issued this statement on August 3: “With Gov. McCrory’s decision to sign the budget, the Senate has concluded its business until the previously agreed-to session on Medicaid reform in November.”
Both resolutions allow for the bodies to reconvene on Monday, November 17 to take up Medicaid reform, matters in litigation and confirmations. The Senate resolution includes coal ash management and General Assembly appointments for consideration in the November session.
And then there’s that matter of raising money. Members and candidates for the General Assembly are prohibited from accepting money from political action committees that are associated with registered lobbyists while the General Assembly is in session (to be “out of session” they have to adjourn for more than 10 days). Legislative candidates are anxious to get their messages to the voters and that takes money. Contenders for the next House Speaker are anxious to prove their fundraising prowess. But nobody can raise the big money while the General Assembly is stuck in session.
What will the House do? Put off til November what they can’t agree to in August?
They can’t do much without the Senate in session with them. During the regular session on August 14, do they adopt the Senate adjournment resolution that the Senate has already adopted? Under an approved joint resolution the General Assembly would then adjourn on August 15 and stand adjourned to reconvene on November 17. After the election, after a break and perhaps when cooler heads will prevail.