September 16, 2019/Press

ICYMI: Republican Veto Ambush “a Dark Day for Democracy”

Raleigh –  Republican legislators chose “the nuclear option” last week when they lied to their colleagues and held a vote on the budget override with barely half of all House members present. The political ambush has been dubbed “a dark day for democracy” that “could damage public confidence” and create “the most toxic work environment” the General Assembly has seen.

Instead of negotiating on the budget and holding the override vote democratically, Republican legislators chose “trickery and deception,” creating “lasting damage to the legislative process” and eroding trust in our government – all to ensure public education remains underfunded, schools continue to struggle with construction needs, and more than a half a million North Carolinians don’t get access to affordable health care.

Winston-Salem Journal: Our View: The Legislature Goes Low
Editorial Board
September 14, 2019

Have they no shame?

Republicans chose last week to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto by any means necessary.

So they took a vote while nearly half of the members of the state House were absent.
The override was approved 55-9, over impassioned protests from the few Democrats who were there. That means only 55 out of 120 representatives passed the state’s two-year spending plan.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

Instead of debate and compromise, Republicans elected to steamroll a vote in a Sept. 11 ambush.

Instead of open discussion, they chose trickery and deception.

What this means is that Medicaid expansion, which would have brought health care coverage to more than half a million North Carolinians who otherwise can’t afford it, has been stifled, yet again, for no good reason. If the GOP-dominated Senate also overrides the veto, it also will mean smaller raises for teachers and less funding for education needs, from kindergarten to college. Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, objected loudly in a more than seven-minute speech. When her microphone was turned off, she turned it back on. When it was turned off again, she grabbed another microphone. And then another. “This is a travesty of the process and you know it,” Butler said when the vote was called in the half-empty chamber. “We will not yield.”

So rather than a good-faith compromise, the Republicans chose a fake-out and an end-around. They rammed through the vote with only a handful of Democrats present.

Wednesday’s vote was legal even if it wasn’t right. The House only needs 61 votes for a quorum and it had 64.

Game over. Win at any cost. Trust and decency and fair play be damned.

Virginian-Pilot: NC GOP becomes what it pledged to stop
Editorial Board
September 13, 2019

NORTH CAROLINA LIKES to portray itself as a bastion of genteel civility — the proverbial “vale of humility between two mountains of conceit,” to borrow a century-old phrase used to contrast the Old North State to its neighbors.

But you know what they say about absolute power — it corrupts, absolutely. And the Republicans that voters trusted to root out Democratic criminality, bring state politics back to center and restore trust in government instead used their influence to cynical partisan ends.

That began with the adoption of redistricting maps that have been struck down by nearly every court asked to review them. Drawn to maximize partisan advantage and marginalize minority voting strength, the maps in North Carolina are the nation’s most egregious example of gerrymandering and reflect a contempt for the democratic process and the will of the people.

It included the adoption of House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill” that codified discrimination against transgender individuals. Passed at the behest of religious extremists, the law alienated the business community and precipitated the loss of jobs, capital and investment that cost the state more than $3 billion.

It included a move by the GOP legislature, during a special session called in 2016 to address recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew, to strip the governor’s office of a wide range of powers so that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper would wield less influence than McCrory, his Republican predecessor.

And now it includes an underhanded vote by the state House to override Cooper’s veto of the state budget, a vote Republicans held over Democratic objections since only 64 of the chamber’s 120 representatives were present.

The General Assembly passed a budget, written by Republicans in the majority, but Cooper vetoed it in June over a number of issues — Medicaid expansion, primarily — but election results last year mean the GOP no longer enjoys a supermajority in either chamber.

So to override a gubernatorial veto requires Democratic defections — or dirty tricks. And calling a vote with only half the House present is most certainly a dirty way of conducting the people’s business.

Daily Advance: Moore ditches trust with win-at-all-costs override vote
Editorial Board
September 15, 2019

House Speaker Tim Moore’s snap decision to hold a vote on the veto override when only half the House’s members were present on the floor — and, more importantly, when a majority of

Democrats who would have opposed the override were absent — was a dark day for democracy. It also likely killed any remaining trust our Legislature’s minority party had for the ruling majority party.

Up until now, Democrats had been able to prevent an override vote. Thanks to the results of the 2018 election, Republicans no longer hold veto-proof majorities in either the House or Senate. That means when Cooper, the state’s Democratic governor, vetoes legislation he disagrees with, the bill can’t become law without at least some Democrats in both chambers supporting a Republican override vote.

Knowing they lacked enough votes to override Cooper’s budget veto when all House members and senators are present, Moore and his GOP counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Phil Berger, had embarked on passing so-called “mini-budgets,” measures like raising teacher and state employee pay, for example, that enjoy bipartisan support and even earned the governor’s signature.

Continuing to pass mini-budgets during the impasse over the larger budget could have built trust between legislative Republicans and Democrats. It also could have helped effect an eventual compromise on Medicaid expansion and education funding that both lawmakers and the governor could live with.

But Moore ditched any chance of that when he decided to win at all costs and hold the surprise override vote with so many Democrats absent.

N&O: NC Republicans’ Shameless Theft of Democracy
Editorial Board
September 11, 2019
The verdict is now plain. North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders — not actually leaders, but connivers — are beyond shame.

In a stunning display of contempt for democracy, House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, called a surprise vote to overturn Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget just after a session opened at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Democratic lawmakers and the media had been told by Republican leaders that there would be no vote in the morning.

Most Democrats were absent. Enough Republicans, aware of the secret plan, were there. When Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, made the motion to reconsider the state budget, the handful of Democrats on hand objected strenuously.

“This is a travesty of the process and you know it,” said Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover.

That it was, but with these Republicans a travesty of the process is just business as usual. With only 64 of the House’s 120 members present, the vote to override passed 55-9.

But this isn’t a case simply of hardball politics and sly legislative maneuvering. This is a case of breaking faith with the people of North Carolina and with all who strove and sacrificed over generations to protect and advance North Carolina’s political system as one based on a true representation of the people’s will, a true democracy.

And the legislation at issue isn’t a bill of limited scope. It is the state budget. It is how North Carolina defines itself by the priorities it sets in spending. And it’s being held up by a dispute over a major issue that involves billions of federal dollars and ultimately affects everyone in the state, Medicaid expansion.

Not only was the House vote dishonest, it was carried out by a Republican majority that courts have repeatedly found to have gained seats through illegal gerrymandering. It was an illegitimate majority acting in an unethical way. These Republicans may be incapable of shame, but North Carolinians should be outraged. First by gerrymandering and now by a high-handed vote, something new has been taken from them. It’s called democracy.

Star News: In Raleigh, a sad day for cherished principles of democracy 
Editorial Board
September 11, 2019

Politics ain’t bean-bag, they used to say in Chicago, where the practice was particularly cutthroat. With the garbage play they pulled Wednesday morning, however, Republicans in the N.C. House may have set a new low for the Tar Heel State,

Wednesday morning, the Republicans called a vote out of the blue — previously unannounced — to override the veto. Nearly half the House members, including most Democrats, weren’t in the chamber.

This is perfectly legal. Whether it’s ethical or not is a whole other question. Clearly, the GOP faction running the House doesn’t believe in majority rule if the majority isn’t already rigged in their favor. This is a bad sign, considering these are the same clowns who will be drawing new voting district maps in a week or so.

This is not about conservative principles. This is an unprincipled power grab and a slap in the face to the North Carolinians who have seen Republicans try to disenfranchise them in the voting booth, in the districts they are placed in, and now by essentially nullifying their elected representatives’ voice in Raleigh.

Winston-Salem Journal: Analysts say House GOP leadership may have overstepped ethical boundaries with veto override tactics
By Richard Craver
September 15, 2019

The tactics used last week by state House Republican leadership to override two high-profile vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper may have been within legislative boundaries.

But holding a vote when the bulk of Democratic leaders were not present may have done lasting damage to the legislative process, according to ethics experts and political analysts.

The House voted 55-15 along party lines to override the veto with 40 Democrats not present, many in a redistricting caucus meeting.

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, and Minority leader, said he had been informed by Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, that there would be no votes taken in Wednesday’s morning session.

Following Tuesday’s House floor session, Lewis texted a WRAL reporter “no votes 8:30” when asked about Wednesday’s session agenda.

“I know that (Rep Jackson’s) trust in me has been shaken, but I did not have the authority to conduct no votes,” Lewis said during Wednesday afternoon’s floor session when all members at the legislature were present.

There are 65 Republicans and 55 Democrats in the House. At full attendance, the GOP would have needed at least seven Democratic votes for a successful override.

“I do not see how trust will be regained any time soon,” said Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, an economics professor at Winston-Salem State University.

“All bets are off now, and the problem is that bipartisanship will not likely be able to return, which means we could be faced with a completely dysfunctional government in our state for some time to come.”

Madjd-Sadjadi referred to the House GOP leadership’s strategy “as effectively the nuclear option that neither side was willing to try before.”

“From now on, the Democrats will be on guard for it and they will no longer be willing to compromise on anything.”

‘Broken’

Conducting a veto override vote with so many Democratic members absent serves “to disenfranchise the electorate,” said Darryl Scriven, dean of Winston-Salem State University’s College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education. He also served as associate director of education and director of the Bioethics Honors program at Tuskegee University.

“If their legislators are not in the room, especially on something as important as the state budget, it means (their constituents) were not represented in the veto vote regardless of how House leadership portrayed the circumstances around the vote,” Scriven said.

“It says something is clearly broken in the legislature for that kind of vote to occur.”
Scriven said the House GOP leadership’s veto override tactics strikes of subterfuge even if there was an honest miscommunication by Lewis to Jackson about whether votes would be taken during the Wednesday morning session.

Toxic

Scriven said the House GOP leadership tactics on the veto override votes could damage public confidence in the legislature’s ability to “handle the process in a civil and proper way.”

“One foundation of public ethics is to avoid (actions) that seem to undermine consensus or betray the process of deliberation,” Scriven said.

“It is certainly possible to create a narrative, however plausible it may be, why this vote happened the way that it did.

“But there was an opportunity to recall the veto override votes with the full membership there if the House leadership felt it had the necessary votes for the overrides when all members were present,” Scriven said.

Jackson submitted motions to recall both veto override votes during the Wednesday afternoon session.

“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,” said Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham.

The motions were voted down 61-54 along party lines.

WFAE: On My Mind: Another Hollow Victory for the North Carolina GOP
Tommy Tomlinson
September 15, 2019

The thinking of the Republican leadership in the North Carolina legislature is clear. They have come to the conclusion that if the game is fair, they can’t win.

To understand what happens requires a little understanding of the rules. It takes a three-fifths majority to override a veto, and when everybody’s present, the Republicans don’t have a big enough margin. But leadership can call for a vote anytime more than half of the members are in the chamber. On Wednesday morning, 55 Republicans just happened to be present, and only about a dozen Democrats. The official vote was 55 to 9.

The latest and most obvious example happened the other day, when the GOP leaders in the House engineered a surprise early-morning vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget.

Democrats said Republican leaders had assured them there wouldn’t be any votes that morning, so they went off to other duties – at least a couple of them attended memorials for the anniversary of Sept. 11. Republicans said they made no such assurances.

But let’s use some common sense here. Everybody knew the Republicans wanted to override the veto. The Democrats would have been elsewhere only if they felt sure there wouldn’t be a vote. And all those Republicans wouldn’t have shown up unless they knew there would be.

The GOP knew they couldn’t win straight up. So they rigged the game.

By bending and breaking the rules, they are telling on themselves. They are saying to all of us that when the game is played straight, they’re losers.

On that point, I agree with them.

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