Lawmakers should call it quits for the year

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Gov. Pat McCrory may have signed the 2014 budget adjustments into law last week, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the N.C General Assembly is ready to pack up and go home.

The main business of the so-called “short” legislative session held in even-numbered years is for lawmakers to make adjustments to the two-year budget plan enacted in the previous “long” session held in odd-numbered years.

But lawmakers spent the better part of July – the first month of the 2014-15 fiscal year – trying to forge a compromise agreement on the competing budget bills approved by the N.C. House and N.C. Senate.

However, the legislative gridlock between GOP House and Senate leaders was not confined to the budget. The two chambers also have been unable to reach agreement on competing legislation to clean up coal ash pits and overhaul Medicaid, not to mention a slew of other bills.

They couldn’t even agree on a resolution to adjourn. House leaders want to return this week to work out differences in the coal-ash cleanup bills, while Senate leaders prefer to return in mid-November to take another try at reaching a deal with House leaders on legislation revamping Medicaid.

Without an adjournment agreement, the House and Senate technically remain in session and are required by the state constitution to hold meetings every fourth day, even if they don’t conduct any business.

The House is scheduled to return to work Thursday – after both chambers held skeleton sessions last week to comply with the constitution. But Senate leaders so far have signaled no intention to return to work any time before mid-November.

The failure to reach agreement on when to meet or adjourn bodes poorly for any hope of a deal on contentious issues such as coal ash pits or Medicaid. Lawmakers would be better off to simply adjourn the 2014 “short” session for good and wait until 2015 to revisit their leftover business.