It is long past time for the Legislature to meet annually. Market volatility has made it increasingly difficult to budget the entire state for two years. Promises are routinely broken. Lawmakers’ reluctance to this change has led to more authority exercised by the Governor. They now find themselves griping about executive orders and overreach. This simple organizational change can create the balance needed between branches.
By law, lawmakers can only meet 80 days over the two-year biennium. Nowhere does it state those 80 days need to happen in one-lump sum every other year. Nothing is preventing the legislature from meeting briefly every year to adjust budgets and change policy. Thus the “simple” change.
This update would allow for more rapid response from legislators to the needs of the state. Events happen that need a response. It would also reduce the calls for special sessions that are often twisted as being politically motivated.
Objections to this update usually get twisted into this would somehow be a full-time legislature. I don’t buy it. Neither should you. The change isn’t increasing the work. It is simply spreading out that same work over the two years.
An unspoken objection to annual sessions is being forced to legislate during election years. It isn’t necessarily that the job would cut into campaigning. It is the realization that the work completed or neglected and the absurd comments will be fresh in voter’s minds. No longer would there be a year for the public to forget the embarrassing ramblings taken from some lawmakers.
Meeting more frequently, the Legislature needs to reclaim its authority. Because of the long gap between sessions, the Legislature has granted too much spending authority in the Executive branch and the Governor. Last year’s response to events underscores this point. There is no way $1.25 BILLION should have been decided by six men.
There has been a dereliction of duty by the Legislature simply because of the mentality that can be summarized as, “this is the way we’ve always done things.” The world has changed. Our economy has changed. The budget has changed. As lawmakers meet, they need to look at how they can change to meet these challenges.
Say “yes” to annual sessions. After that update, we should consider returning to 2-year terms for House members. More on that next time.
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