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It will never be said that a Democratic–Republic form of government is a static, boring endeavor. The 90 day 2017 Legislative Session begins next Wednesday January 4th and ends June 2nd. Since a speaker will have not yet been elected, the first day of Session will be led by Lieutenant Governor Foley. The proceedings begin with Chief Justice Heavican swearing in to office the 17 new and 8 reelected senators.
The other major business of the day is the election of leadership positions in the Legislature. But before that can occur, a majority of senators must approve the temporary rules (those of the previous Session) that govern the legislative process. New rule changes are normally done a few days later through recommendations by the Rules Committee and approved by the body before floor debate begins.
There is one continuous issue that may cause a rejection of the temporary rules: the practice, began in the 1970s, of secret ballots for leadership. It’s the only vote taken by senators that is kept from the public. There may be an attempt to amend the rules to change this policy. The problem is that to do so means there will be no rules on the floor of the legislature until the temporary rules are accepted. Chaos could ensue.
I am for public votes; you should know who I support for leadership. In fact, that this is even an issue amazes me. How can anyone be against transparency in the action of elected officials? There is not a senator in the body who does not know who I support for leadership positions. But that is not true of all, it only takes a few power hungry individuals who will attempt to garner support for chairmanships by purposely telling two colleagues running for another committee chair that they will support them, but in secret can hide the truth from one of them. Human nature does not change with elected office, if anybody needs the guidance of transparency, it is a politician. If an attempt is made, I will vote for transparency, but I would much prefer that we do it through the Rules Committee process. Secret government actions breed suspicion, not trust. Either way, we will post our leadership votes on our legislative website.
First, the Speaker of the Legislature is elected, then comes the election of 17 committee chairs in alphabetic order starting with Agriculture and ending with Urban Affairs. I am running for the Chairmanship of Education. I believe because of my colleagues, who have offered their support, we will have more than the 25 votes needed. The old joke on first day is: it’s the only day of Session when there are not 49 senators but instead 50, since every candidate has been told they have the support of 25.
Things going forward will move fast. First, we will address the Governor’s recommendation on the budget shortfall for the remaining fiscal year through June. Within 10 days, senators must submit their legislative bills. I will submit bills dealing with NCORPE, TIF, parental rights, property taxes, oversight of the State’s Tourism Commission, and add clarification to transparency and public notification requirements of laws governing elected local boards. As the session begins there will be others as constituents bring issues forward.
I was recently asked by a member of the press: Is it not odd that a State Senator is in conflict with local leaders of the community? He was referring to the use of TIF. My reply was simple; what is your definition of local leaders? Mine includes local elected officials. As of yet, I have not had a county commissioner, city councilman, school board member, or any other elected official confront my position on TIF, or for that matter, NCORPE. I assume as good public servants they govern using present law, but do not oppose enactment of better law. Other leaders are the business owners who pay their property taxes in support of their community, farmers who are stewards of our groundwater, religious leaders whose concern is morality, and parents who lead their families. Those are the local leaders whose advice I take into account.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office email@example.com or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.