Legislature's Unintended Consequences
As the legislative session winds down, the Republicans who control the North Carolina General Assembly have shown that they are very much like their Democratic predecessors in one respect and not so much like them in another.
GOP legislators embrace open -government and transparency in much the same manner as the Democrats who used to rule the roost, which is to say not much at all; they are far less deliberative than Democrats when it comes to passing -substantive public policy.
The tumultuous -legislative session of 2011 has been marked with sharp debate over state spending, political standoffs between Gov. Beverly Perdue and Republican legislative leaders, and a GOP -agenda that has reached into polarizing social issues and divisive election law changes.
As much publicity and political fallout as the more publicized squabbles have and will generate, the crush of garden-variety legislation that hasn't been carefully -vetted could get Republicans into more trouble.
So much legislation has been flying through committees and chambers with very little review that unintended consequences are bound to occur.
New House Speaker Thom Tillis, in particular, has shown little ability or will to rein in his caucus to slow down the fire hose-like flow.
One of the oldest lobbyists in the legislative barn recently compared the Republicans, out of power for more than 100 years, to a hungry kid in a candy store, minus parental supervision. "They're happy now," he said. "They're going to have a tummy ache in a couple of months."
That's not to suggest that Democrats, when they were in control, didn't push through some poorly thought-out legislation.
Typically, though, the poorly vetted stuff was narrow, affecting small slivers of the population.
The same can't be said for this year.
A key example is a wide-ranging regulatory reform bill that will change the process for how state agencies consider and adopt their rules.
For weeks, legislative Republicans held public hearings around the state on the issue of regulatory reform. They only rolled out the legislation in the final two weeks of the primary legislative session.
While business interests proclaimed victory and environmentalists predicted calamity, state agency officials and their lawyers were quietly shaking their heads. Many couldn't make heads or tails of the bill and the process it laid out for rule-making.
No one was really sure of the result.
Some of the stranger pieces of legislation weren't even very partisan.
Republicans and Democrats voted for a bill that would make it a criminal -misdemeanor for motorists to move over into the lane of motorcyclists, regardless of whether an accident results. We'll see who gets blamed when Grandma is hit with a hefty fine and lawyer bills for making a motorcyclist dodge to the side of the road.
Soon enough, most of the lawmaking will be done for the year.
Then the law of unintended consequences can begin to hold sway.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
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