I understand the need for political parties in the legislature to be able to caucus in private and come to a consensus or an understanding prior to the debate in committees and on the floor. I have worked in and around the legislature for a number of years so I am not naive enough to think what was reported in the media today, that the House GOP caucus has private meetings which include lobbyist, is unique to the house Republicans.
That does not mean I think it is a good idea to institutionalize huddling with a group of lobbyist, even if they are from both sides of the debate, and pretend that this does not look funny. I would advise Speaker Tillis to acknowledge that while the caucus did nothing wrong, that in the future they would discontinue this kind of practice.
Many of the people who voted for the Republicans are suspicious of politicians in general and don’t like lobbyist specifically. While it may be legal and no different than what the Democrats did in the past, that is not why voters elected Republicans this year. They elected them to be different. To the average person this does not look good.
Lobbyist serve a valid function in the process as a source of information from a particular group, industry, interest etc. There are ways of getting the information without making it seem they have special access. Tasking a member of the caucus to become knowledgeable on the issue(s) and have them present the information to the caucus is a way to accomplish the same thing. If individual members need more information they can seek out the appropriate lobbyist and let them do what they are paid to do, try and convince them of their position.
The Republicans in the legislature have hit the ground running and have accomplished a lot. This is the most productive start to a legislative session in my over 30 years of being around the NC Legislature. They are operating in an open and fair manner and are allowing vigorous debate and have given the minority ample opportunity to comment and offer changes. There is no need to let this small matter mar an otherwise great start.
I am currently registered as a lobbyist and expect that I will not be invited into any house caucuses in the near future.