NC House over­rides gover­nor’s bud­get veto in sur­prise vote

The Charlotte Observer - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAWN BAUM­GART­NER VAUGHAN, LAU­REN HORSCH AND PAUL A. SPECHT [email protected]­sob­server.com [email protected]­sider.com as­[email protected]­sob­server.com

In an early-morn­ing move that shocked and an­gered Democrats in the cham­ber, the N.C. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives voted to over­ride Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state bud­get. Just over half of the 120 mem­bers were present to vote.

Rep. Ja­son Saine, a Lin­col­nton Repub­li­can, made the mo­tion to re­con­sider the state bud­get and chaos in the cham­ber quickly en­sued. Democrats in the cham­ber ve­he­mently ob­jected to the bill be­ing brought up, say­ing they were told there would be no votes dur­ing the 8:30 a.m. ses­sion and that the ses­sion was just a for­mal­ity so work could be­gin.

House Speaker Tim Moore, a Kings Moun­tain Repub­li­can, de­nied that such an an­nounce­ment was made, and even asked the House clerk to back him up. That prompted an out­burst from Rep. Deb But­ler, D-New Hanover.

“This is a trav­esty of the process and you know it,” But­ler shouted when the vote was called, not­ing that Democratic leadership was not present. “We will not yield.”

Moore ig­nored the ob­jec­tions of the Democrats who were in the room and in­stead mowed through the vote with only 64 mem­bers vot­ing. The vote was 55-9. Later, mul­ti­ple Democratic House mem­bers who were there but who weren’t able to vote in time had their votes recorded as “no.”

But it still wasn’t enough to change the out­come.

About three hours af­ter the morn­ing vote, Cooper held a press con­fer­ence to con­demn Repub­li­cans for what he called “an as­sault on our democracy.” He’s been in a stale­mate over the bud­get with Repub­li­can lead­ers for months and was caught off-guard by Wed­nes­day’s vote.

“To­day, on the 18th an­niver­sary of 9/11, while the state was hon­or­ing first re­spon­ders, Repub­li­cans called a de­cep­tive, sur­prise over­ride of my bud­get veto,” he said.

“On a day when tragedy united our coun­try, we should be stand­ing to­gether de­spite party,” Cooper said. In­stead, he said, “the Repub­li­can caucus was lay­ing in wait, ready for this.”

“I have never seen any­thing like this in my 30-plus years in state govern­ment,” he said.

The bud­get im­passe had dragged out all sum­mer long though some pieces of the bud­get have been passed, in­clud­ing

raises for many state em­ploy­ees. Cooper had com­plained that the over­ride vote was on the House cal­en­dar re­peat­edly since first be­ing placed there on July 9, but no vote had been held.

Moore re­sponded to Cooper and Democrats at a 1 p.m. press con­fer­ence, where he de­nied that any prom­ises were made about a “no vote” ses­sion. The bud­get was on Wed­nes­day’s cal­en­dar and in­cluded no dis­claimer that there wouldn’t be a vote.

“I’ve made it clear. I’ve said it from right here, on the floor, ev­ery­where: If I see an opportunit­y to over­ride this bud­get, this veto, I was gonna take that vote,” Moore said.

“If they didn’t want it to pass, all they have to do is show up for work,” he said.

ABOUT THE VOTE: HE SAID, HE SAID

Democrats say the heart of the is­sue isn’t what was writ­ten on the cal­en­dar, but what they were told by House GOP leadership. House Democratic leader Dar­ren Jack­son of Wake County said he was told by Repub­li­can Rep. David Lewis, of Har­nett County, that no votes would be held dur­ing the morn­ing ses­sion. So Jack­son told the Democratic caucus that they didn’t need to be there.

Lewis, who presided over the House Tues­day, de­nied that claim dur­ing the GOP press con­fer­ence.

He ac­knowl­edged tex­ting a WRAL re­porter Tues­day night to tell her he thought there would be no votes dur­ing the Wed­nes­day morn­ing ses­sion. But Lewis didn’t re­lay that pre­dic­tion to any­one else, he said.

“At any time that there has been a no-vote ses­sion sched­uled, the chair has ei­ther an­nounced that from the dais, or has sent an email, or both,” Lewis said. “None of those oc­curred yes­ter­day.”

And yet, Democrats say they got the im­pres­sion they didn’t need to be in at­ten­dance.

Rep. Gar­land Pierce, a Demo­crat from Scot­land County, at­tended a 9/11 me­mo­rial event in Rae­ford in­stead.

On the House floor, Pierce called the de­ci­sion to vote “a bit much.”

“I know you gotta do what you gotta do . ... Mr. Speaker, that was not the way to do it,” Pierce said. “I wish you well and God bless you.”

HOW THE VOTE HAPPENED

The House can con­duct busi­ness so long as it has a quo­rum — at least 61 law­mak­ers — present. Both cham­bers of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly need three­fifths ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers present and vot­ing to over­ride a veto from the gover­nor. With 67 law­mak­ers present, only 40 votes were needed for the over­ride.

Wed­nes­day morn­ing, there were only about a dozen Democrats on the floor, and they did not all have a chance to vote, they told re­porters. Jack­son said that mi­cro­phones were cut off.

But­ler told re­porters that she was threat­ened with ar­rest on the House floor. She called the Repub­li­cans’ ac­tion “scorched earth politics” and an “em­bar­rass­ment.”

“The trick­ery that is be­ing ev­i­denced by this morn­ing is tan­ta­mount to a crim­i­nal of­fense,” But­ler said.

But­ler de­scribed the vote as a “hi­jack­ing of the process.”

Rep. John Autry, a Meck­len­burg Demo­crat, posted to Face­book video he took dur­ing the ses­sion of But­ler in­ter­act­ing with the speaker.

Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Democrats asked Repub­li­cans to re­call the vote. Rep. Robert Reives, a Democratic leader from Chatham County, said he feared the ten­sions would ruin work­ing re­la­tion­ships in the months to come.

“All we’re ask­ing is that we do things a proper way so we don’t have prob­a­bly the most toxic work en­vi­ron­ment that we’ve had, for the next two months we’re work­ing to­gether,” Reives said.

The House held a re­call vote, but it failed.

Ear­lier in the day, Jack­son talked about trust in the build­ing.

“If we can’t trust each other, this place will fall apart, it’s just too big an en­tity to run, too many pro­cesses to re­quire for ev­ery­thing to be in writ­ing,” Jack­son said. He said if some­one with power tells you some­thing is go­ing to hap­pen, you have to trust that it will.

Jack­son and Lewis spoke to each other on the floor Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon about trust, too. Jack­son said he’s not call­ing Lewis “a liar.”

Lewis said he be­lieves Jack­son was con­vinced he heard some­thing that Lewis didn’t say.

Moore said dur­ing the af­ter­noon House ses­sion that he’s the one who de­cides whether to hold votes.

“When I say that there are no votes that are go­ing to hap­pen, there are no votes that are go­ing to hap­pen,” Moore said.

“If I do see an opportunit­y to carry the will of the ma­jor­ity of the House and see this veto over­rid­den, I will do so,” he said.

Lewis said he pub­licly an­nounced that there would be votes Wed­nes­day.

“As House Democrats are well aware, no vote ses­sions are ex­plic­itly an­nounced from the chair, on the floor” or from the speaker’s email ac­count, Lewis said.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE STATE BUD­GET

The state bud­get still can’t pass with­out the Se­nate also over­rid­ing Cooper’s veto. How­ever, the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity only needs one Demo­crat to vote with all of them to ob­tain the nec­es­sary over­ride. The over­ride vote had not been added to the Se­nate cal­en­dar as of late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Se­nate leader Phil Berger told re­porters Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that the Se­nate is fo­cused on re­dis­trict­ing right now.

“Re­dis­trict­ing com­mit­tee will con­tinue its work and it’s our ex­pec­ta­tion that it will com­plete its work some­time be­fore Mon­day. We will see how that goes. We will have a vot­ing ses­sion in the morn­ing, I do not an­tic­i­pate any vot­ing ses­sion af­ter tomorrow morn­ing, un­til Mon­day,” Berger said.

Berger didn’t have any­thing to say about the bud­get or a veto over­ride.

“We are laser-fo­cused on try­ing to get this re­dis­trict­ing taken care of. Once that’s done I will be more than happy to talk about what may hap­pen, what may not hap­pen, what could hap­pen, what sup­pos­edly could hap­pen … We have no plans to deal with the bud­get this week,” he said.

The rea­son for the months-long bud­get stand­off was Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion. The gover­nor and Democrats want it, and Repub­li­can lead­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the Se­nate, said re­peat­edly they do not. The “mini-bud­get” bills passed re­cently were a way to move less-con­tro­ver­sial as­pects of the bud­get for­ward, like state em­ploy­ees raises. Those raises are the same as the ones in the bud­get.

Also at play is the Tax­payer Re­fund Act, which al­ready was passed by the Se­nate. While the plan to re­fund most of the bud­get sur­plus to tax­pay­ers was an­nounced dur­ing the bud­get stand­off, it is not tied to the veto or over­ride. The House could still pass that bill, which would then go to the gover­nor to sign or veto.

TRAVIS LONG News & Ob­server file photo

House Speaker Tim Moore, a Kings Moun­tain Repub­li­can, moved through a vote Wed­nes­day to over­ride a veto of the state bud­get.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.