(This post was originally published in Rep. Mary Belk’s May 11th newsletter. It has been shared with permission of Rep. Belk’s office and should be attributed to her.)
I’m getting packed up to head back to Raleigh for the “Short Session”, which starts on May 16th. Theoretically, we have a part-time legislature in North Carolina, so our two-year sessions (“Biennium”) are designed to allow legislators to maintain their full-time professions. In odd-numbered years, we are traditionally in session from January to mid-June, and in even-numbered years, like 2018, we are only required to be in session from May 16th to the July 4th holiday.
Recently, these schedules have been altered by the supermajority, with our 2017 Session technically running into February of 2018. The General Assembly has only been able to maintain this schedule in the past by drastically limiting the types of bills that can be considered in even numbered years.
The “Long Session” is when legislators are welcome to write and offer bills on any topic, and are obligated to write and pass a two-year budget for the State. About two-thirds of the way through the Long Session, there is a day designated as “Crossover Day.” On that day, any new legislation must be passed by either the House or the Senate in order to be heard in BOTH Sessions of the Biennium. That means that if a Bill was NOT passed by either the House or the Senate before April 24, 2017, it has almost no chance of becoming law before 2019. After the crossover deadline, all bills MUST have an appropriation clause, which makes it a budget bill, and part of the budgeting process.
The Short Session is traditionally used only to offer amendments and adjustments to the Budget, and consider any bills that were passed by the Crossover Deadline, but not by both houses. (Here’s our filing deadline information.) It is actually not possible to submit a new ‘regular’ bill that is not directly related to the budget during the Short Session.
Usually, the Governor, who is in charge of the Administration, will submit a range of suggested ‘fixes’ to the budget based on circumstances that may have changed since the budget was passed, or based on political priorities they’d like to pursue. As you might imagine, in a divided government, this can lead to some very public friction between the legislature and the Governor.
Now that you know how all this ‘traditionally’ works, let me remind you that the rules of any legislative body can be waived by a sufficient vote of the members, and my Republican colleagues have a supermajority in both houses. They have issued a list of exceptions to the ‘no new bills’ rule including: NC constitutional amendments, redistricting bills at any level, election law changes, bills to disapprove administrative rules, and several others that suggest we could be in for an interesting 2018 Short Session in Raleigh.
Be sure to stay informed as the Short Session begins and to hold the supermajority accountable for the bills they pass.