Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina General Assembly is not unlike a big raucous high school sometimes, complete with its own inside jokes that are terribly funny to insiders and impenetrably obscure to those who don't spend too many hours within the confines of 16 W. Jones St.
Case in point was the announcement from Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, on Wednesday that "The Ways and Means Committee will not be meeting this week."
The provoked guffaws and chuckles from longtime lawmakers and lobbyists and looks of bemusement for those not in the know.
Here's the joke: The Ways and Means Committee never meets. Ever. Or at least so seldom that nobody can remember a time.
Currently, the three-member committee is made up of Apodaca, Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, and Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe.
There was a long-standing joke among Democratic leaders who controlled the chamber before 2011 that the Ways and Means Committee would take up all the bills assigned to it during its next meeting.
The Republicans who now control the chamber have adopted this joke as their own and use the committee as a repository for bills for which they wish to show particular disfavor. Right now, two bills dealing with school calendar flexibility, a measure rewriting the school report card system and one creating an independent redistricting commission have been assigned to marinate in the committee.
Asked about the committee on Wednesday, Apodaca said that, when next it does meet, he hopes to bring former chairman Sen. Charlie Dannelly, D-Mecklenburg, back as an honorary cochairman.
Some final bits of trivia:
- The state House does not have a Ways and Means Committee, but it used to and it used to do work, handling a hodgepodge of bills that senior leaders thought needed a second look or special attention.
- Ways and Means should not be confused with the Rules Committee, which does meet on a fairly regular basis. An assignment to the Rules Committee can mean any number of things, from top legislators holding on to a bill for safekeeping to a bill being on a fast track to anything in between.