Lack of transparency always a hallmark of NC legislature
Posted July 12, 2013
Updated July 13, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Abortion debates in the General Assembly the last two weeks have been as much about the legislative process as about the content of the divisive proposals.
Democrats have repeatedly cried foul during the six-month session, saying the Republican majorities in the House and Senate are circumventing public debate by introducing bills with little notice, if any, and using their numerical advantage to push them through the chambers quickly.
"They simply are imposing their will," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.
Two abortion bills began as measures to restrict foreign laws in state family courts and to improve motorcycle safety. GOP lawmakers tacked the abortion regulations on during committee meetings without telling Democrats of the proposed changes – anti-abortion lobbyists were notified in advance of the Senate's actions – and had both bills approved within a day.
Likewise, the House on Thursday passed a comprehensive regulatory reform bill a day after GOP lawmakers changed a Senate bill initially intended to change certain environmental laws.
"Transparency is critical," Glazier said. "It's critical for not only a better product, but it's critical for the confidence of the public about what's happening here."
Republican lawmakers say more notice would do little to change the outcomes – they have the numbers to pass their agenda. They also say there's not enough time in the session to allow public comment on every controversial bill, adding that Election Day gives the public a chance to comment on their actions.
Also, many Republicans say, their actions are business as usual at the General Assembly.
"Let me tell you about process. Let's talk about the Election Reform Act of 2004, 2006, 2008. They were always heard around 2 o'clock in the morning the last night we were here," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. "The Racial Justice Act, it reappeared one afternoon and caught us all off guard."
Glazier said citing past Democratic wrongs is a poor defense.
"Two wrongs don't make a right. It's what we teach our kids," he said. "If it was done wrong and you complained about it before, to say, 'Well, you did it' is the height of governmental immaturity."
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who oversees the Senate and ordered protesters out last week after they voiced their displeasure over the passage of the first abortion bill, insists that the majority party isn't doing anything improper.
"My job is to make sure everyone abides by the rules and ensure the rules are followed, and the rules have been followed. They really have," Forest said.