Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Observers question need for lame duck session

by Damon Boughamer
Public Radio Capitol News, serving Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, Penna. (PRCN, 16 November 2004) -- It’s a biennial tradition in Pennsylvania: legislators rush important decisions and pass potentially unpopular laws during a “lame duck” November session, after voters can hold them accountable.

It’s not a tradition in every state, but it’s probably one that will endure here.

The leaders of groups ranging from the liberal Common Cause to the conservative Commonwealth Foundation are critical of post-election lawmaking.

They note that only eleven states have “lame duck” sessions.

But Brenda Erickson – a research analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures – says that’s because not many legislatures are full-time.

Erickson says where there are full-time lawmakers – from California and Wisconsin to New Jersey and Pennsylvania – they generally find ways to fill up the calendar.

“The states that are full-time have been full-time for many years. My feeling is that they will probably follow the same tradition – that it *is* a tradition in those states,” Erickson says.

And state lawmakers are not alone.

Congress, for example, is required to pass 13 spending bills every year to keep the government running. So far they’ve passed four.


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