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]­sob­ [email protected]­ as­[email protected]­sob­

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.


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.”


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.


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.

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