N.C. House and Senate budget negotiators have repeatedly said that joint meetings are public.
They had such a joint meeting this morning. But when a News & Observer reporter tried to enter, they kicked him out.
Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat, could not cite a reason under the public meetings law as to why a reporter would be excluded. But he said the meeting had nothing to do with the budget, reports Dan Kane.
"Because we were just hearing a report from staff," Rand said. "It had nothing to do with negotiations."
He said the report was an "economic briefing."
What did it say?
"We're not sure."
Why can't a reporter listen to that?
"Because we're trying to determine if there's something we want to do," Rand said. "I mean, that was just a staff thing."
Related to the budget?
"Related to anything."
Budget negotiators were the only ones attending. A brief glimpse into the meeting showed Dan Gerlach, senior budget adviser to Gov. Mike Easley, and legislative fiscal staff addressing the lawmakers.
Gerlach left several minutes later.
What were they meeting about?
"Talking about the budget," Gerlach said as he walked away.
After the meeting broke up, Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat and the House's chief budget writer, said his team had nothing to do with the decision to close the meeting.
"They ran you out of there," he said of the Senate budget negotiators. "That was their meeting. It wasn't mine."