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Advocacy Angle: Of dog days and long legislative sessions 

by Scott Mooneyham, League Advocacy Communications Strategist

Just about every year at the North Carolina General Assembly, you will hear someone ask, "Have you ever seen anything like that?" No legislative session is like another, and one of the things that turns people into political junkies is that the political landscape is always shifting. Every time you believe you have seen it all, you are wrong.

Having said that, posing that question to longtime political observers in Raleigh always poses a risk of this response: "Oh, this is nothing compared to 2001." The 2001 legislative session was the year that legislators arrived in January and finally adjourned, for good, in December. A state budget was approved on September 21 of that year, 83 days after the start of the fiscal year. During those 11 weeks of budget impasse, nerves grew frayed and tempers became short. After passage of the budget, legislators spent weeks approving new legislative and congressional districts.

That never-ending legislative session had another effect that may have been less noticeable from the outside. Among the advocacy groups looking for policy outcomes in legislation pending at the end, it simply wore them down. After spending weeks and months attempting to sway legislators regarding the wisdom of this or that position, when some of those decisions were finally made, the groups most affected had batteries low on charge.

The 2015 legislative session spurred recollections of that 2001 session as legislators again plowed through July, August and into September without reaching a budget agreement and with several other items on the to-do list. It was easy to succumb to that same kind of legislative process fatigue.

Nonetheless, League staff continued to hear from representatives of cities and towns who were contacting legislators about municipal priorities. Groups including members from League policy committees, from geographic regions, and from individual cities came to meet with members of the General Assembly even during the dog days of August to push for municipal policy priorities.

That League members did all of this, even as the session dragged on and on, is a testament to the commitment of municipal representatives seeking the best for their communities and pursuing the policies required to protect and improve the quality of life their residents enjoy. That fatigue of watching the same policy issues week after week, hoping for a positive resolution when there is none and legislation remains in flux, is real.

Sometimes it’s not who is on what side of an issue that can determine the outcome. Sometimes it is not the arguments pro and con. Sometimes it is the simple fatigue experienced by those who are engaged in the fight, especially when those historically long legislative sessions occur. The only answer: Don’t let it beat you.