Those who watch, report, lobby the NC General Assembly know that there are a multitude of procedural maneuvers used to move controversial bills through the process. Those moves usually hit near the end of the session in the rush, when attention spans are short and legislative activity heavy.
This session proves no exception. The House and Senate are duking it out on the top line issues of budget and tax reform. There is always an interesting banter between the chambers even when they are led by the same political party. This session, the possible US Senate primary battle between Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis has led to an interesting dynamic to observe. Add to that dynamic, the House Republican caucus factions breaking on issues and for the potential successors to Tillis.
Enter a bill that proponents say ensures better health for women and opponents say places restrictions on access to legal abortions and we now have the latest dust-up between the Senate, House and the largely absent Governor.
Absent from his key tool to affect the legislative process – the bully pulpit. Clearly, the Governor hosts breakfast meetings with legislators for policy-making strategy sessions but for the general public, his absence from the stage that only the Governor can command, has left the public wondering who they elected.
First, the Senate was chastised for rushing the abortion bill by the Governor, limiting input and depriving the public of comment and discussion. Then, the House seemed to rush in with immediate public input only to turn around and replace the bill with another bill, with no notice, little opportunity for input and no public comment. Procedurally, nothing is wrong with the process used except that a rush with no discussion usually ends without the goal of good governing. The public is sharp enough to see that this is all a political maneuver occurring in the same week the Governor appeared in a six-month review press conference and said he would veto the original abortion bill.
Taxes and budgets have yet to be resolved with rather major differences between the chambers. But the turning point may very well be this abortion bill. The process is turning out women to the building on short notice, increasing public attention on the General Assembly, provoking a public desire to better understand the process and providing a rallying point for a formidable faction of voters – women.
Jeanne Milliken Bonds is a PR Consultant, political analyst and NC Spin panelist, and hosts Plain Talk Politics.
Cross-Post: NC Spin
Cross-Post: Camel City Dispatch