The past two weeks were what people in the General Assembly call crossover week, and what I call, what-the-hell-just-happened week.
In simple form, here’s how it works: the House works on bills for the first half of the session, and the Senate works on bills for the first half of the session. Since we all have to vote on the same things by the end of the session, around the halfway point — crossover week — everyone works nonstop to pass out of their committees and out of the House and Senate all the bills that are a priority, that the parties or committees have decided are the most important to advance to the next step to make into laws.
The House passed some significant, and sometimes a little controversial, legislation after a lot of debate and discussion and amendments and votes. (I’ve written about these bills over the past couple of months.) We sat in our, I’m not going to lie, terribly uncomfortable seats for up to 10-hour sessions. I set a world record by eating two pieces of pizza in about 30 seconds during a quick break.
Because the Democratic party has a sizable majority, none of the bills coming out of the House failed. Now, they go over to the Senate, and the Senate bills come over to the House, and then people (not me, I’m new, I don’t get to participate in this part of the fun) who are part of the parties’ leadership and the governor’s administration get to hash out what the bills will look like in the end. Then we’ll vote on them again. This time, everyone will be voting on the same form of the same bills.
I guess I should have known this, but before I got here, I didn’t quite realize how much a bill changes from when it’s introduced to when it becomes a law. Bills frequently change before they’re even voted out of committee. I hear from constituents a lot (which I really appreciate and enjoy) expressing their opinions or thoughts on a particular bill, and this can help inform my discussions with my colleagues. I don’t want anyone to think, though, that when I write back to you and say, “I’m going to wait to reserve my vote decision until the final bill,” that I’m putting anyone off or trying to avoid making a commitment. I’m just trying to be thoughtful.
Some bills that covered these topics came out of the House in the past couple weeks. I’d love to hear feedback about:
- Flavored tobacco-product ban. The argument for it is that fruity, sweet and mint-flavored tobacco vapes and chews and other types of tobacco appeal to young people and encourage them to use and become addicted to, these products. The argument against it is that we already have laws prohibiting people under age 21 from purchasing these items and that enforcing the laws would allow local stores (instead of online, out-of-state sellers) to continue to sell these products to legal users and prevent kids from getting their hands on them.
- The “bottle bill.” Proposed in previous sessions, this bill would add sports drinks, wine bottles and water bottles to the list of beverage containers that have a redemption deposit. Pros: It would make the sorting process much easier for small redemption centers and eventually will raise deposit amounts. Cons: there already exists a mechanism for plastic recycling through large recycling facilities, which would run short of materials to recycle and possibly, eventually increasing their costs, which could be passed on to customers.
If you’d like to come see me at the Statehouse, please do reach out and we can arrange a visit. I’m expecting some Charlotte Central School students next week, and I’m really excited to see them.
As always, you can find me via email or 917-887-8231.