Gov. Roy Cooper is upset that North Carolina House Republicans might amend a rule regarding overriding governor vetoes. Previously, to override a veto, legislators must wait “until the second legislative day following notice of its placement on the calendar,” creating a minimum of 48 hours before House members can vote on an override. Newly adopted House Resolution 1 does not contain the rule.
On Wednesday, state lawmakers returned to Raleigh, where they took their oaths of office. In the N.C. House, Republicans now hold 71 out of 120 seats, one seat shy of a supermajority. It would take 72 out of 120 votes, or three-fifths, to override a veto from Cooper.
During his time in office, Cooper has vetoed more bills than all previous N.C. governors combined.
“Not letting the public know when veto override votes will occur slaps democracy in the face and deceives citizen legislators who have overlapping work, family, and constituent responsibilities they could change if they had proper notice,” Cooper said in a statement. “It’s a shame that House Republican leaders believe they can only override a veto through deception, surprise and trickery.”
“Members are elected to serve and be present for all legislative business,” Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell, who chairs the House Rules Committee, said in response to Cooper’s statement. “All members receive ample notice for votes whenever they are planned. We will pursue the will of the majority regardless of the Governor’s opinions.”
Under the new rule, Democrats would need to be careful about skipping voting sessions if they want to uphold Cooper’s vetoes. If even one Democrat votes with the Republicans, or if two don’t show up, Republicans would be able to override.
On the floor of the House Wednesday, Hall implied these changes to the rules might be temporary. Hall said he and Minority Leader Robert Reives, D-Chatham, had spoken about passing a permanent rules package in February.
“A debate on our rules package will come potentially at some point. But today is not that day. Today is a day for celebration,” Hall said, referring to the swearing-in ceremonies for newly-elected members.
Reives told reporters Wednesday that the rule change “holds people hostage” and reflects poorly on the state, according to WRAL.
However, Reives agreed with Hall that the rules debate could wait. “As much as I’d love to regale you with the opposition that I have, I won’t do that. But we do look forward to having that debate,” he said.
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said “ambush” votes are “not something we’re looking at.” Moore alluded that Republicans do not need to overcome many votes in a veto-override situation. “Before we put an override vote on the floor, we’re gonna know we have the votes,” Moore said.
Some issues that may require overriding Cooper’s veto this year include voter ID, new abortion laws, sports betting, school choice, and Second Amendment legislation.
“Despite Speaker Moore’s bad faith attempts to bend the rules to consolidate his own power, North Carolina Democrats are prepared to stand up to bad Republican bills and uphold Governor Cooper’s veto,” said current Democratic party chairwoman and former state Rep. Bobbie Richardson.
The House will officially reconvene at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 25.