N.C. House leaders appointed 82 members – including Republicans and Democrats – to the conference committee that will negotiate a budget agreement with the Senate.
The appointees include most of the legislators who voted for the original House budget bill. The large committee is a big contrast from past years’ budget talks, when roughly a dozen legislators were at the table.
“This represents the way we’ve governed this year: We’ve been very inclusive and encouraged participation on both sides of the aisle, and we want to be very transparent in the process,” House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday. “We felt like having a large number of conferees – making sure all voices are heard – that it would help the process.”
House Democratic Leader Larry Hall said he questions how much involvement Democrats will actually have in the process.
“It would be more appropriate to say they’re going to get a seat in the audience rather than a seat at the table,” Hall said, adding that he expects top Republican budget writers will meet separately from the full committee. “That’s too big of a committee to be efficient.”
Moore said he doesn’t expect all 82 appointees will attend every meeting. Instead, the committee will divide up the budget work into subject areas such as health and education. House members have been complaining that the Senate budget bill includes too much sweeping policy on issues ranging from taxes to Medicaid.
“We’ll try to involve as many people as we can, but I just wanted to err on the side of having too many folks involved instead of too few,” Moore said. “It’s a big bill, there’s a lot of stuff in there. I think the more sets of eyes looking at it, the better.”
Asked if any of the meetings will be open to the public, Moore said most will follow standard conference committee protocol and be private. But he added that some meetings might include public input.
“Any meetings where we think it’s helpful to have public dialogue, we’ll do it,” he said.
The 82 budget negotiators represent more than half the 120-member House. The committee will exclude the 11 Republicans and 12 Democrats who voted against the original budget bill.
The Senate has not yet appointed its budget conference committee members.