The N.C. Senate has eliminated a quirky committee that almost never held meetings and was used to effectively kill legislation opposed by Republican leaders.
The Senate Ways & Means Committee was known as the “graveyard of the Senate” and became a bit of an inside joke at the legislature.
The chairman of Ways & Means was Sen. Tom Apodaca, who also served as the powerful Senate Rules Committee chairman and resigned last year. He controlled the flow of legislation in the Senate and would assign bills he opposed to Ways & Means – and because the committee didn’t hold meetings, bill sponsors had no way of getting their proposals to a floor vote.
Many of the bills that died in Ways & Means were filed by Democrats. Occasionally, Apodaca would create intrigue by scheduling a Ways & Means committee meeting, but he always cancelled it.
The new Rules Committee chairman, Sen. Bill Rabon of Southport, said this year’s rules eliminated the committee because “it hasn’t met since sometime in the ‘60s.”
Even without Ways & Means, Rabon and Senate leader Phil Berger will have options to avoid holding votes and committee hearings on legislation they oppose. Sending bills to the Rules Committee can have the same effect, and any committee chair in the House and Senate has the option to kill bills assigned to their committee.
Both the House and Senate tweaked their committee structures Wednesday, merging some committees and renaming others.
One notable change was made in the House: The Children, Youth and Families Committee is now the Committee on Homelessness, Foster Care and Dependency. House Rules Chairman David Lewis says the panel will put a new focus on those issues.
“We’ve learned that there are 30,000 identified homeless kids in our traditional public schools right now,” he said. “We want to bring additional focus on getting them the resources these kids need to be successful.”
Clifton Dowell of the N.C. Insider State Government News Service contributed to this report