The following editorial appeared in the September 2015 print edition of Carolina Journal:

The 2015 session of the General Assembly has not adopted a budget, even though the 2015-16 budget year began July 1. By all accounts, the session will stretch into September and perhaps beyond, as the honorables dicker over spending numbers, Medicaid reforms, sales tax policy, or a host of other concerns.

The issues that lawmakers haven’t resolved are important, and we’d rather they take their time arriving at sensible policies that are consistent with principles of limited, constitutional government than hurry out of town just to avoid public criticism and save taxpayers a few bucks.

That said, the General Assembly isn’t in much of a rush because they don’t have to move quickly. North Carolina is one of 10 states placing no limit on the length of the legislative session, according to a chart compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Without statutory, constitutional, or even informal session limits, leaders can keep their members in Raleigh interminably, and that has been the rule in recent decades. The General Assembly has enacted a budget on time only six times in the past 20 years, and sessions have lasted into the fall on a few occasions.

That’s a reason to push lawmakers to enact a statutory limit on legislative sessions, as is the practice in most other states. The prospect of a mandatory end to the session would tend to focus the mind. Some states use the calendar to set boundaries; other base the session on the number of working days lawmakers are around.

Another common-sense reason to cap legislative sessions: States with session limits tend to respect freedom more than those that do not. Using the First In Freedom Index created by the John Locke Foundation to rank states on their “freedom friendliness” based on a host of fiscal, regulatory, health care, and education policies, only two of the 10 states that do not limit legislative sessions — Wisconsin (11th) and Idaho (17th) — scored higher than North Carolina’s 23rd on the FFI.

All of North Carolina’s neighboring states impose session limits, and all score higher than the Tar Heel State on the freedom index. Correlation may not be causation, but it follows that states placing boundaries on lawmakers might show more regard for their residents’ liberties.

As a general matter, we’d be delighted if legislators weren’t around Raleigh nearly as much as they tend to be: There’s truth to the quip that no one’s life, liberty, and property is safe while the legislature is in session.

None of the states that limit legislative sessions prohibit the ability to call special sessions to handle matters including redistricting, responding to natural disasters, or reacting to federal court decisions. North Carolina should follow their lead. A law requiring sessions to end no later than June 30 is a good place to start the discussion.