Republicans in Raleigh are up to their old tricks again. A special session will begin with no agenda. It’s possible they could vote to rig the courts in their favor. They may make it easier for polluters to poison the water. They may do nothing of consequence. Democrats and the public have been kept completely in the dark as to what to expect. Are the Republicans again readying for a sneak attack on democracy?
North Carolina lawmakers are returning to Raleigh this week, but they’re not giving the public many details on what they plan to vote on.
Both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate are due back in session Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said the Senate might have votes that day, Thursday, or Friday – or maybe all three days – but didn’t say what they might be voting on.
“I’m IN the state senate and I don’t know what we’re voting on this week,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte wrote in a tweet. “This is nuts.”
In the House, a spokesman for Republican Speaker Tim Moore said the only planned vote so far is on Thursday, for a resolution honoring the North Carolina A&T football team for its undefeated season last year.
Legislative leaders have hinted that votes might be coming on more controversial topics, such as redistricting or judicial reform.
“We are waiting for guidance from the courts before we can determine anything else,” Berger spokeswoman Amy Auth wrote in an email.
The legislature is appealing several court rulings, including two that overturned election districts (one on political grounds and one on racial grounds), and another that stopped the General Assembly from canceling statewide judicial primary elections this spring.
In the absence of official plans, some advocacy groups are warning their supporters to be prepared for anything.
The NC Sierra Club sent out an email Tuesday saying the House might take up a bill, already passed by the Senate in 2017, that would restrict state agencies from creating new regulations if they determined it would be too expensive to the industry affected by the rules. Opponents of the bill say it could especially hamstring the state’s environmental regulators.
But that bill is in the House Rules Committee, which has no scheduled meetings anytime soon.
And Rep. Ted Davis, a Wilmington Republican who is on the Rules Committee and has also helped lead the state’s response to GenX water pollution, said he has not heard from Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis about any committee meetings this week.
Another Wilmington lawmaker who has been involved in environmental issues, newcomer and Democrat Deb Butler, said she has been unimpressed with the legislature’s transparency during her first term in office. The uncertainty over the regulatory reform bill – or anything else that might happen in this session – is just one more example of that, she said Tuesday.
“It’s very upsetting to me, as a freshman,” Butler said. “They haven’t told us what we’re voting on. This sort of approach to lawmaking yields fruit like HB2 and the classroom chaos bill, and this bill.”