Bill filings accelerate as deadlines loom

Well over a thousand bills have been filed during the 2017 session, but some earn more media attention than legislative support

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Senators bow their heads in prayer during a session of the N.C. General Assembly at the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

RALEIGH — As the April 27 crossover deadline for legislation filed in the N.C. General Assembly approaches, many lawmakers are busy filing bills before the window closes. Amid the flood, some bills that touch on hot button issues such as H.B. 728 grab headlines across the state and nation.The UNC Institutions/Conference Boycott bill, sponsored by half a dozen House members, is a direct response the the NCAA and ACC boycotts of the Old North State as part of the public relations fallout from the infamous H.B. 2.”We’ve learned from the past how these boycotts can work to attempt to bully the state and by learning from the past we wanted to enact a piece of legislation that has leverage — no matter what the boycott may be, no matter what the subject matter is moving forward,” said primary sponsor of H.B.728 Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender).The legislation would enact triggers that would pull the UNC system universities from a collegiate conference if that conference instituted a ban or boycott of some kind on the State. The University of North Carolina and N.C. State University, two founding members of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), would hence be compelled to leave the ACC if boycotts were instituted for any reason.Despite the media attention the bill has received, its legislative viability is hardly certain. Media coverage, however, can sensationalize a bill filing with no allusion to its actual prospects.”To some extent when the media takes a look at a particular bill that’s on a hot button issue they do their readers, or viewers, or their listeners a disservice if they don’t point out that a bill has been filed but only has one or two sponsors and it’s not particularly clear whether the bill is going to go anywhere,” senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation Mitch Kokai told North State Journal in an interview.The disconnect seems especially true for another bill filed last week in the N.C. House, H.B. 780, that upholds traditional marriage and provocatively bucks U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the matter. The excited media coverage caused enough frenzy to illicit reassurances from House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) that the bill would not be granted a hearing.”Any lawmaker can file a bill on pretty much any topic,” said Kokai. “That is their right as a member of the General Assembly. That is of some interest, but you shouldn’t spend too much time looking at a bill and saying that it has any chance of proceeding just because it’s been filed.”While partisans often share support for myriad policy positions, bill filings alone are insufficient to gauge true levels of support among an entire caucus of the General Assembly.”A lot of bills that are being filed now are bills that are important to one, or two, or three members of the General Assembly, but they aren’t necessarily bills that are going to be the priority for a majority, or even a significant minority of the members of the General Assembly, “said Kokai. “I think too often you see that a bill gets filed on some hot button topic, and while it’s worthy of news coverage, the way in which it’s covered suggests that there is widespread support or that the leadership in either the House or the Senate is pushing this measure…and that’s just not the case.”