NCGOP Partisan Power Grabs Would Be Unprecedented

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2016
Contact: JamalLittle@ncdemocraticparty.org

NCGOP Partisan Power Grabs Would Be Unprecedented

RALEIGH, N.C.— Today, the General Assembly convened a special session to provide much needed relief to disaster victims. But instead of focusing on providing relief for those in need, they seem to be considering a number actions from court-packing to shifting agency control in a desperate attempt to hold on to power after the incumbent Governor lost for the first time in North Carolina history.

Any attempt to use this special session for anything other than disaster relief would be an unprecedented power grab. In 1999, it only took a day and half for the General Assembly to pass Hurricane Floyd relief funding in a special session. Despite lobbying from powerful interests to use the special session to pass unrelated bills, House leadership from both sides of the aisle kept the chamber focused solely on helping flood victims.

Meanwhile, these partisan actions from the GOP will come with a tab of $42,000 per day for taxpayers.

“For Republicans to use the special session to advance their partisan agenda would be nothing less than an unprecedented power grab. The legislature needs to focus on what they are there for: emergency relief for those still suffering from natural disasters. It’s time for them to accept the results of the election and denounce any actions subvert the will of the people by taking back power they have lost,” said Jamal Little, NCDP spokesman.

THE FLOYD SPECIAL SESSION TOOK JUST A DAY AND A HALF WITH LITTLE DEBATE, DRAWING PRAISE

Charlotte Observer HEADLINE: “Quick Action On Flood Aid Applauded.” [Charlotte Observer, 12/19/99]

Charlotte Observer: The Floyd Relief Package Was Passed In Just A Day And A Half, With Much Of The Time “Not Spent Debating.” “Yet passing the Hurricane Floyd relief plan took just a day and a half, much of that not spent debating but waiting for copies of the bill to be printed. Several state leaders have suggested the rancor-free emergency session could mark the start of a new era of legislative cooperation. More likely, the General Assembly will be back to its contentious norm when lawmakers return next May.” [Charlotte Observer, 12/19/99]

Top Senate Republican Patrick Ballantine Called The Floyd Relief Package “A Great Compromise” And Only 5 Of 170 Legislators Voted Against The Package. “The plan had little for anyone to love – but also little for them to hate strongly enough to risk voting against flood victims. Some Eastern North Carolina leaders wanted more money and were willing to back a temporary tax increase. Some Western North Carolina lawmakers worried they were cutting too deeply into state budgets for public health and cultural resources. In the end, nobody was especially happy. But only five of the General Assembly’s 170 members were displeased enough to vote no. ‘This was a great compromise,’ Ballantine said.” [Charlotte Observer, 12/19/99]

Durham Herald-Sun Editorial On Floyd Session: “The Special Session Certainly Will Go Down In The Books As A Time When Lawmakers Put Aside Philosophical Differences And Regional Interests To Do What Was Right For The People.”“Last week the General Assembly, not known for its ability to leave town on schedule, passed an $837 million flood relief package for eastern North Carolina in two days, fulfilling House Speaker Jim Black’s wish that the Legislature complete the package before Christmas. The special session certainly will go down in the books as a time when lawmakers put aside philosophical differences and regional interests to do what was right for the people still trying to get back to normal after Hurricane Floyd.” [Editorial, Herald-Sun, 12/21/99]

Asheville Citizen-Times Editorial HEADLINE: “Quick Flood Relief Action Shows Best Side Of State Government.”[Editorial, Asheville Citizen-Times, 12/19/99]

Asheville Citizen-Times Editorial: Floyd Special Session “Has To Have Been Among The Shortest Special Sessions Ever.” “In what has to have been among the shortest special sessions ever, the state legislature overwhelmingly approved Gov. Jim Hunt’s $836 million flood-relief package for victims of Hurricane Floyd and adjourned in two days. The session began Wednesday and the House had approved the package before the day ended. The Senate approved the package Thursday and the governor signed it into law.” [Editorial, Asheville Citizen-Times, 12/19/99]

Asheville Citizen-Times Editorial On Floyd Session: “Legislators On Both Sides Of The Aisle Deserve Credit Too, For Their Swift And United Support For The People Of The Eastern Part Of The State.” “But Hunt was right to recognize the desperate immediate need and to take steps to provide aid as rapidly and with as little political squabbling as possible. Legislators on both sides of the aisle deserve credit too, for their swift and united support for the people of the eastern part of the state who have suffered such devastating losses.” [Editorial, Asheville Citizen-Times, 12/19/99]

HOUSE LEADERSHIP KEPT THE CHAMBER FOCUSED SOLELY ON HELPING FLOOD VICTIMS

Then-Speaker Jim Black Set Strict Ground Rules, Reminding House Members That They Had A Responsibility To Flood Victims, And Pushed Other Leaders To Keep Other Issues Off The Legislative Agenda. “Jim Black got tough. When he took over as speaker in January, barely overcoming an attempted coup orchestrated by House Republicans and a few black Democrats, Black promised to allow open debate. He led the 1999 session with a hand that was more quiet than firm. When House members got back to town last week, however, the usually subdued speaker gave Democrats a pep talk behind closed doors. He kicked off the emergency session with an unusually direct speech reminding House members that they had a responsibility to flood victims. He pushed other party leaders to set committee rules that kept debate on-track – and in some cases, away from issues he didn’t want considered. And Thursday, as a debate over the rules between Reps. Cherie Berry, R-Catawba, and Bill Culpepper, D-Chowan, threatened to derail the House, Black took the unusual step of banging his gavel and ordering both sides to stop arguing. ‘I am so proud of the speaker,’ Basnight later said. ‘… He got this done.’” [Charlotte Observer, 12/19/99]

TOBACCO COMPANIES TRIED TO USE THE FLOYD SESSION TO PASS LEGISLATION TO PROTECT THEM FROM LAWSUITS, BUT THE LEGISLATURE REFUSED

Lawmakers Rejected An Attempt By R.J. Reynolds During The Floyd Special Session To Introduce A Bill That Would’ve Limited Punitive Damages On N.C. Companies To $100 Million.  “The sneaky attempt by executives of R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies to slip a self-protection bill into the General Assembly’s Hurricane Floyd special session was right in character, given the industry’s history of hardball politics. Fortunately, it was rebuffed. Industry lobbyists sought to have a bill introduced that would have limited to $100 million the amount of punitive damages that courts in other states could impose on North Carolina companies. A Florida jury, not coincidentally, is considering whether to penalize tobacco companies as much as $ 300 billion in a lawsuit there.” [Editorial, News & Observer, 12/22/99]

House Speaker On Push For Tobacco Company Legislation: “This Is A Flood-Relief Session, And We Chose To Stick With Flood Relief.” “Legislators stuck to their guns and ended a special legislative session Thursday, having only discussed Hurricane Floyd relief plans, not tobacco. ‘This is a flood-relief session, and we chose to stick with flood relief,’ Black said. ‘If that (Florida jury award) happens, we’ll have to look at it then.’” [Associated Press, 12/17/99]

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