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State Lawmakers Behind In Job, Compared To Previous Years

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As North Carolina lawmakers decide Wednesday how to prioritize bills before a looming Thursday deadline, some are asking questions about what has been accomplished so far in the state legislature.

Justr 74 days into the 2005 session, common ground has been hard to find, said Ran Coble, of the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research.

"They're a little behind in their homework assignments this session," Coble said.

The state House passed a controversial lottery bill. The Senate approved what some say is a contentious budget plan. Lawmakers also approved hurricane relief for western counties. But in terms of far-reaching issues, not much has been done.

"How much you do in the first five months affects how much you do in the whole session," Coble said. "So, it's something to worry about."

Out of more than 2,900 bills introduced this session, 102 passed both chambers -- a sharp drop from the 148 approved during the same time frame in 2003 and 176 in 2001.

House Speaker James Black, D-Mecklenburg County, said, the legislature's performance is not always about the numbers.

"We're doing our business in a routine manner," Black said, when asked if he felt the House was accomplishing enough. "I don't see anything different this session than we've had in the past."

"Well, I don't know how you can accomplish all that should be accomplished with 170 people," Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight said. "Two people can't get along in a divorce sometimes."

Lawmakers and legislative observers point out that what is accomplished by the end of the session is what really matters.


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