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Session Limits

Position: NCCBI urges the General Assembly to limit legislative sessions to a specified number of legislative days for both the long session and the short session. The "short session" should be limited to budget matters, unless legislation is needed to address a justifiable emergency situation.

Explanation: The extraordinarily, long session of 1998 shows the need to limit the length of legislative sessions. The regular legislative "short" session convened on May 11 (after a six week "special session") and adjourned October 29. when legislative sessions last this long and a state budget is not adopted by July 1; public schools and state agencies experience extreme difficulty in planning for the next fiscal year. It is imperative that the Legislature begin to adopt the state budget on time. Lengthy sessions also leave legislators little time to meet between sessions for important study committees.

This particular session was not unique: over the past years, the trend has been longer and longer sessions. The "short" session of 1990 lasted from May 21 to July 28-- nine weeks! The 1995-96 session lasted 155 days; it was 177 days in 1993-94, 155 days again in 1991-92, and 181 days in 1989-90. There has also been a trend to call "special sessions" which only add to the length of time legislators must be in Raleigh.

According to The Book of the States published by the Council of State Governments, 37 states have limits on session lengths; the other 13, including North Carolina, have none. Most of the 37 have a maximum number of days the Legislature can meet, a few have dates the Legislature must adjourn by, and several limit the number of days legislators receive per them expense money.

All of our neighboring states have limits. Virginia has a 30 day calendar maximum in odd numbered years and a 60 calendar day maximum in even numbered years. Tennessee limits pay and per diem allowances to 90 legislative days. South Carolina's legislature must adjourn by the first Thursday in June. Georgia is limited to 40 legislative days every year.

These lengthy legislative sessions place a tremendous burden on people who wish to serve as citizen legislators, particularly those who run businesses at home. For many it is too great a burden on family, business, and career. In the past several years, because of this burden, legislators with promising futures have often announced that they would not run for reelection. If some steps are not taken soon, we may have a state legislature composed of only retirees, the independently wealthy, or persons who need a legislator's salary on which to live.

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