Is the General Assembly finally headed into the 21st century?
Incoming Senate leader Phil Berger said yesterday that this session, senators will be allowed to have laptops on the floor for the first time ever. Outgoing Pro Tem Marc Basnight refused to allow them on the grounds that they would be distracting and harmful to chamber decorum.
Then, this morning, eight 50-inch flat-screen TVs appeared, four each in the front and back House quads. They will be hung from trusses in the center of each space.
Some of us in the press corps were envisioning virtual dance-offs for the remaining committee chairmanships, but alas, it turns out the TVs are just temporary. They were rented by the House transition team at the behest of incoming Speaker Thom Tillis, just for opening day.
Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw says it's an attempt to accommodate very large crowds expected for tomorrow's opening day ceremonies.
"The House chamber can't hold that many people," Shaw said. "If we have 500 show up, we don't want 250 standing around outside the doors, unable to see what's happening."
Shaw says the total price for the rentals is around $2,500 and is coming out of the Speaker's Office budget.
On the Senate side, Berger spokeswoman Amy Auth says the opening ceremonies will be televised in the third-floor legislative auditorium.