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Legislators Adjourn Without State Budget, Set To Reconvene January 14

Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs & Policy Manager

Members of the General Assembly voted to adjourn last week without finalizing a state budget package, bringing an end to the second-longest legislative session in the State’s history. While legislators blame the lengthy session on the budget stalemate and ongoing efforts to override the Governor’s veto, some wonder if the state legislature should consider implementing session limits. North Carolina is one of just 11 states (and the only state in the South) with no set limit on how long legislative sessions can last, according to a report by WRAL. Out of all surrounding states, South Carolina has the longest session limit at 5 months, but lawmakers there are required to finish their work by the first Thursday of June. In comparison, North Carolina’s latest session lasted 156 legislative days over 11 months. This ongoing trend of extended legislative sessions is problematic for not only state legislators who work full-time jobs, but also for aspiring legislative candidates who find the annual lawmaker salary of $13,951 inadequate as replacement income for extensive time away from careers that help them support families.

Lengthy legislative sessions also impact state-funded programs, like public schools, that need to know what state resources they can expect in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Due to the recent state budget impasse,  Tar Heel lawmakers will reconvene on January 14, 2020, hopefully with some New Year’s resolve to quickly reach an agreement with Governor Roy Cooper and provide school personnel pay raises and other needed K-12 funding. While setting session limits is not on the General Assembly’s work plan in 2020, that topic could emerge for consideration either then or in a future session.

Elizabeth Yelverton