Lawmaker Says He Doesn't Have Time To Read All Bills

RALEIGH, N.C. - State laws touch almost every part of our lives: from the rules of the road, to how much tax we pay on our cars, even how your hair salons are inspected. So when your elected leaders craft those laws, you want their full focus. But one lawmaker told 2 Wants To Know the process is so fast - sometimes he can't even read all the bills before a vote is called. What?

This came up when we started investigating lawmakers missing votes. Representative Marcus Brandon missed 14 percent of votes in the Short Session. The reason? He says he doesn't always have time to read the bills first. Here's one example of what he's talking about:

In May House Bill 1133 was just one page long. But in a committee meeting on July 24 lawmakers added amendments and the bill grew to 55 pages. The next morning - the entire house was voting on the expanded bill. Brandon said the bill was too much to digest that quickly.

"If I haven't had a chance to read the bill, then I don't vote on it," he said. "That is a problem. You don't get to read every bill. I'm just being honest with you."

Here's what he's not getting to read: This one bill contains complicated details about a mishmash of unrelated issues from your rights to appeal court decisions, to the background check process for buying a gun even requirements on barbershop inspections.

On the House floor, several other democrats also complained about timing. But Republican Jeff Collins from Rocky Mount shot them down. Collins said lawmakers had weeks to look at a rough draft version of the bill.

"If you haven't read the bill, I certainly wouldn't admit to that. To me that's more a personal problem than it is a procedure problem with this issue because it was there long enough for us to read it," he said.

In the end, the house speaker called a short recess to give lawmakers a few more hours to review the bill.

Are all the votes that fast? 2 Wanted to Know looked at the rest of the schedule for same day House Bill 1133 was up for debate. House lawmakers took up 10 bills - five came out the night before. That's 86 pages of homework for them.

According to ExcecuRead, the average American adult can read "roughly 2 minutes per page." Meaning the pile of bills should take about- three hours.

Wake Forest Political Science professor Rogan Kersh says the real motive for complaining about speed might not have anything to do with time.

"What that usually reflects again is not some kind of objective concern about fully absorbing the information. What it tends to reflect is a dislike, particularly of the partisan nature of the policy that's being moved through quickly," he said.


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