Even as a bill to reform state oversight of ethics, campaign finance and lobbying heads for a key vote in the state House later today, leaders in the Senate say the sweeping legislation will not be approved before adjournment.
House Bill 710, which would restructure and consolidate the State Ethics Commission, the campaign finance division of the State Board of Elections and the lobbying oversight office at the Secretary of State into a single oversight agency with a new board.
The Republican-backed measure passed a second reading in the House in a largely party-line vote last week and is scheduled for a final vote tonight.
But over in the state Senate, GOP leaders have decided the issue is too big and important to rush to a vote before the legislature adjourns this weekend.
Jim Blaine, the chief of staff for Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, said Senate consideration of the bill will likely be put off until until next year's short session.
"They don't want to pass something that hasn't been fully vetted," Blaine said of Senate leaders. "We've got to get this right, and with so many moving pieces to this legislation, the mechanics of this are something that can't be figured out in a couple days."
UPDATE: To crib from Mark Twain, earlier reports of this bill's death may have been exaggerated.
Blaine now clarifies that it is "within the realm of possibility" that House and Senate leaders could call for a special legislative session before the end of the year to deal with the issue of ethics, campaign finance and lobbying reform.
"This issue will be taken up, it's just a question of when," Blaine said.
That the legislation is being delayed will likely be welcome news to some campaign finance and lobbying reform advocates, who have expressed concern about key provisions in the House bill.
"There may be merit to combining parts or all of these agencies, but rushing this merger through without careful study is irresponsible and undermines confidence in the very agencies that are charged with protecting the public’s trust in government," Bob Hall, the director of Democracy North Carolina, said in a statement this morning. "The undue haste raises the question of what other motives are driving a shotgun merger destined to end in tragedy."