It’s silly season at the N.C. General Assembly – that time of year when lawmakers file bills that are, to be charitable, a little wacky. It happens in the early days of most every legislative session. It’s not limited to one party’s legislators.
Usually, the bills are an attempt to please the base back home. Sometimes they’re about a lawmaker’s pet issue or problem. Sometimes they’re actually about pets – such as the 2013 bill requiring criminal background checks for pit bull owners.
Then there are the real head-scratchers, such as House Bill 147, which was filed last week by four N.C. Republicans. The bill would repeal Section 4 of Article 1 of the North Carolina Constitution, which prohibits the state from seceding from the Union.
That’s right: Lawmakers want to open the door to secession.
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The bill’s author, Michael Speciale of New Bern – called it a “clean up of the Constitution,” which doesn’t really clear things up much. Other sponsors, including Larry Pittman of Cabarrus, haven’t explained publicly what’s behind it. Perhaps they’re embarrassed by the ridicule the bill has received.
Pittman, at least, should be accustomed to that. He’s also known for backing public hangings for abortion doctors and wanting to make Christianity the official religion of North Carolina. Those went nowhere, too, thankfully.
So how do you tell the silly from the substantial at the General Assembly? A couple of tips:
If legislation only has a handful of sponsors, it’s probably going nowhere. If it’s shuttled off to a relatively obscure committee, it’s probably going to die there.
We expect HB147 to join that very long list of bills that never had a chance. Those bills may get their share of headlines, but the eye roll test applies: If it sounds too crazy too pass, it probably is.