Under the Dome

In the old days, it seems, ‘hot air’ slowed down N.C. lawmakers

Dome has been thinking about the old days after listening to Apex Republican Paul Stam’s speech on the House floor this week in tribute to the Magna Carta as the document’s 800th anniversary approaches.

Stam is correct that much about history resonates to this day. And it’s not just from the early 1200s.

We like round numbers, too, and dusted off the newspaper from 100 years ago this week, just as the General Assembly’s session was cranking up.

Rep. L.M. Blue of Scotland County captured then (and, we suspect, now) what the headline writers at the time said was a shared sentiment about the length of the lawmaking session.

On Jan. 20, 1915, Blue rose and spoke to his colleagues in the House.

“If the legislature would cut out all the hot air,” Blue said, “we could pass all the legislation needed in 40 days and go home. I think it would be the best thing the assembly could do.”

He said it would be good for the state – and for lawmakers.

“I can see no good in this prolonged discussion of bills,” he said. “Let’s adjourn in 40 days and go home.”

He did not get his wish.

The General Assembly’s session wrapped up that year on March 10.

Lawmakers clocked in 63 days for the session (and 49 days after Blue urged haste).

Our modern version of the legislature is watching the calendar, too.

One new rule in the Senate will allow bills to be presented only by their short title – a change highlighted as a time saver. (Short is a relative term. Last year, after the clerk read-in the “short” title of the coal ash bill in one long breath, there was a standing ovation. It ran more than 700 words.)

Lawmakers have already set a range of dates for when different types of bills must be filed. The so-called “crossover” deadline – the date by which a bill must pass one chamber or the other to stay alive – was set for (drum roll, please) May 7. Bills dealing with money are, of course, exempt from all these time limits.

This is getting to be a long way of saying they’ll just be getting started around here on March 10.

We’ll see you on Jones Street in July.