Editorial: The neverending legislature
Normally, the citizens of North Carolina can relax once the General Assembly ends its long session. After passing hundreds of new laws and debating more, the senators and reps finally go home. The public is safe from further legislative mischief until the following spring.
Not any more.
Before the last gavel sounded in the 2017 session last week, leaders in the House and Senate announced they’d be calling the legislature back in session at least twice in the near future, in August and September. What’s been billed as the legislature’s “second quickest” long session since 1973 in fact is not really over.
After taking the month of July off, lawmakers will be back at it. They essentially gave themselves an extension to resolve differences between House and Senate bills that, under usual rules, would have become moot once the last gavel sounded at 2 a.m. Friday.
The August session also could include overriding vetoes from the governor, making appointments and responding to lawsuits, according to The News & Observer.
Lawmakers might also consider bills involving impeachment of an elected official, an allusion to the accusations Republican Rep. Chris Millis of Hampstead has made against longtime Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a Democrat. Millis claims Marshall allowed non-citizens to become notaries, a charge which she denies. This allegation is to be neither made nor taken lightly. If Millis doesn’t have ironclad proof, he has recklessly impugned the character of a dedicated public servant for the basest of political motives.
Finally, in September, lawmakers are expected to take up the matter of redistricting. The U.S. Supreme Court this spring affirmed a ruling that the current district maps for the state House and Senate are unconstitutional. Lawmakers elected under these unconstitutional maps appear in a hurry to get as much business done while they can — before new districts go into effect or a backlash against President Trump drags down Republicans across the country. Hence the additional sessions and inching toward what is essentially a full-time legislature.
Republicans have taught Democrats new lessons in partisan one-upsmanship, lessons the Democrats likely will put to use if they ever regain control. No stone has been left unturned, no advantage unexploited, from stripping gubernatorial powers to proposing judicial districts as convoluted as their own. Now Republicans restructuring the legislative calendar on a supposed ad hoc basis, but a pattern is emerging. Don’t relax for a second. They are always in session.