Raleigh, N.C. — Senate leaders are preparing to send the House three different proposals for terms of adjournment, indicating that there's still no agreement between House and Senate leaders about when to come back or what they should take up when they do.
In the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday night, Chairman Tom Apodaca rolled out the three proposals in quick succession as amendments to older bills in the committee, a process known as a "gut and amend."
"Our friends in the House can decide which way they want to go," said Apodaca, R-Henderson. "We want to go home."
The first, House Bill 1276, would simply end the session "sine die" – that is, permanently, "without day" to return. Unless called back by the governor, lawmakers would not return again in 2014, scrapping plans for a special session Nov. 17 to pass Medicaid reform legislation.
Option two, House Bill 182, would keep the Nov. 17 session, but would strictly limit the matters that could be considered to Medicaid reform, any veto overrides and a final adjournment resolution.
Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, asked about the need to include the veto override language, since the governor currently has no bills he can veto. Apodaca said the language is being added out of "an abundance of caution."
The final option, House Bill 901, is the most open-ended of the three, and Apodaca called it the "preferred" option of Senate leaders.
That bill would allow lawmakers returning Nov. 17 to consider Medicaid reform, any bills regarding lawsuits against the state, veto overrides, any bills in conference, any bills sent to conference with conferees for both chambers appointed by Friday, confirmations of special court judges and a final adjournment resolution.
Senate leaders have said since leaving town Aug. 1 that they wanted to deal only with veto overrides at sessions scheduled Thursday and Friday. There are no vetoes to override, so they've said they would prefer to wait until November to take up any other issues of substance.
House leaders said earlier Thursday they didn't know what the Senate would propose. Several House members were at the Rules Committee meeting, waiting to see what the Senate unveiled.
"Guys, we gave you three," Apodaca said to them. "I hope you can find one of 'em you like."
On the Senate floor Thursday night, President Pro Tem Phil Berger said it was time for the General Assembly to adjourn.
"We are a part-time legislature. Folks are entitled and their families expect them to be home by a certain time," Berger said. "The primary reason we’re here today is to vote to adjourn."
Noting that his hometown of Eden has been dealing daily with the coal ash spill in the Dan River since February, he said cleaning up North Carolina's coal ash ponds remains a top priority for lawmakers.
"This is a highly complex issue, and the differences with the House cannot be resolved overnight," he said. "We hope to be able to come back in November and fix that problem.
"It will be up to [the House] them. We’re hopeful that they’ll take up the adjournment resolution that allows the most flexibility," he said.