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The following is a repost from an article by Patrick Gannon. It sheds some light on ways the general assembly can better work together during the 2015 legislative session which starts this month!
Five Suggestions for a Less Polarized General Assembly
Posting can be found: http://themountaineer.villagesoup.com/p/five-suggestions-for-a-less-polarized-2015-general-assembly/1288046 By Patrick Gannon, written for Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015
RALEIGH – Jan. 14 brings a new legislative session and a fresh slate to the General Assembly, when old wounds should be healed, old habits forgotten.
But if not, here are five ways that Republicans and Democrats might get along better as they make new laws together in 2015.
1) Republicans should allow more Democrats’ bills to be heard by committees. Nothing’s worse than not getting picked for a team on the playground. When the majority party denies the minority’s ability to participate, it breeds frustration and – at times – anger. Even if their bills are going to get voted down, Democrats should have more opportunities to plead their cases in committees for legislation important to them. They’re elected, too, by roughly the same number of voters as Republicans.
2) Democrats should aim for a strong ground game rather than the Hail Mary pass. In recent years, Democrats and their supporters have protested loudly for such changes as an increased minimum wage, the reinstatement of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the rolling back of tax cuts for the wealthy. Maybe they should focus their energies – at least with Republicans in control – on policies and programs that Republicans might support, like teacher raises or textbooks or mental health reform. Not to say that Democrats and Republicans never work together in Raleigh, but it could happen more often, especially if Democrats pursue initiatives that their GOP counterparts are inclined to consider.
3) Limit the finger-pointing, name-calling and references to past Legislatures. This goes for all lawmakers. It’s clear to anyone who watches state politics routinely that Republicans don’t like it when protesters and Democrats call them “immoral,” “radical” and the like. Who would? It probably makes Republicans far less likely to listen to Democrats or allow them to participate meaningfully in the process. Similarly, Democrats don’t like it when Republicans use questionable legislative tactics and then rationalize them by saying the Democrats did it when they were in power, too. If your brother jumped off a bridge, would you? And why would Republicans want to emulate Democrats anyway?
4) Strive for better process. In recent years, Democrats and their supporters – and even some Republicans – have complained regularly about legislative tactics employed by the GOP majority. Among the gripes are late-night meetings where important legislation is discussed, rushing important bills through the process at the last minute, killing of Democrat-sponsored amendments, cutting off of debate on the chamber floors and the running of so-called “Christmas tree” bills with many diverse provisions. Eliminating these tactics would reduce fodder for complaints and promote harmony in the Legislative Building.
5) Better state budget process. The state budget is the most important piece of legislation considered each year. Making the document shorter by eliminating hundreds of pages of policy that have crept into budgets over the years would simplify the process. Policy issues, as many Republicans and Democrats would argue, should be left to standalone bills whenever possible. Also, the more time budget writers give fellow lawmakers to review the budget and determine its impacts – intended and otherwise – before having to vote on it, the happier they’ll be.
Oh, and a coffee shop at the legislative complex couldn’t hurt the camaraderie, especially during those late-night sessions in our future.