Local Politics

Bills Piling Up as Lawmakers Deliberate

Posted April 26, 2007

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— State lawmakers are on a pace to set a record for the number of bills filed in the General Assembly. But the pace at which they're passing those bills is lagging far behind.

Through the first thee months of the 2007 legislative session, about 3,400 bills have been filed. That's well within reach of the record 3,700 filed during one session in the late 1980s.

But only about 20 of those bills have been approved by lawmakers, and no agreements are in sight on major issues like the budget, taxes, Medicaid relief for counties or a proposed smoking ban.

The list of accomplishments for the session includes congratulating the Appalachian State University football team and the Barton College basketball team, both of which won national championships, as well as passing new regulations for golf carts and fox and coyote trapping.

Skeptics question the lawmakers' slow pace.

"That doesn't mean there won't be some significant legislation that's passed by the time they're finished," political columnist Scott Mooneyham said.

It's just a question of when they might finish.

Lawmakers are scrambling to get the House budget out by next week, for example, and Speaker Joe Hackney said the chamber might not finish by then.

Hackney implemented a more deliberative process this year, requiring bills be heard in two or more committees. That means consideration often takes longer.

"There's a lot of big issues that we haven't addressed that the public's waiting for us to address," said Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford.

The critical "crossover" deadline is in three weeks. A bill must pass either the House or Senate by then and cross to the other chamber, or it dies.

Blust said lawmakers will begin to panic in the coming days that their proposals won't meet the deadline.

But Hackney and other veteran lawmakers said they see no need for concern. Committees are cranked up and moving legislation, they said, and the public's business will get done eventually.

"We're doing a lot of business here," said Hackney, D-Orange. "Crossover always creates a logjam. It won't be any different this year."

People should judge the productivity of the session when it's over, he said.

"They should conclude that it's business as normal, where we do a lot of committee work in the first half of the session," he said.

5 Comments

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  • Rebel Apr 27, 2007

    Any bets as to how many days they will run "over" (at $104 per day per legislator)?

  • ArkAngels Apr 27, 2007

    There is entirely too much time wasted at the legislature.

    They have to meet with all of the lobbyist's for whatever bill's are up for the session.

    Meet with all of the business interests that the proposed laws affects.

    Try to get a list of all of the "political favors" they have that they can "call in" when they need it to get a bill passed... the list is endless.

    Somewhere is all of this "endless work" we the people get left out and our opinions do not matter. After all, we are the ones that voted for them. Oh but wait, we are not the ones that "paid for" their campaigns. They have to keep those people happy first or else they may not get back there next term.

    If we worked at our jobs the way these officials do, we would be fired. Now there is an idea...

  • jgriffith3792 Apr 27, 2007

    This is because they are too busy focusing on things that happend over a 100 years ago. What a bunch of out of touch bums.

  • 68_polara Apr 27, 2007

    For each new law passed they should remove one. I think I've heard this from some one else on these comment boards. It makes a lot of sense. Do we really need this many more laws?

  • bigjim835 Apr 27, 2007

    I guess with the cost of consumer goods going up the legislature has to work longer to make expense money to pay for them.