News: Quick Takes

Committee rejects effort to close House ‘veto garage’

CJ file photo
CJ file photo

This story has been updated as of 2:42 p.m. with the full N.C. House vote and details.

The N.C. House Rules Committee rejected on a voice vote a proposal to limit the number of days a veto override vote could remain in limbo on the House’s calendar.

That vote took place Tuesday morning before the full House voted 114-3 in the afternoon to adopt permanent rules for the 2017-18 legislative session.

The proposal from House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, was designed to close the so-called “veto garage.” “That was made popular during the 2011-12 session,” Jackson explained. “What [the amendment] would say is that once a bill is put on the calendar for the first time for consideration of a veto, it could only remain on the calendar for five days.”

“It would avoid the situation where bills stayed on the calendar daily — every day — for months after months after months,” Jackson added. “They remained on the calendar, and then, lo and behold, one night — I think about 1 a.m. — we did a veto override. I’m trying to avoid that.”

“Veto garage” was a derogatory term applied to the practice in place under former N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis during the last two years of Democrat Gov. Beverly Perdue’s administration. 2012 was the last year in which a Democrat occupied the governor’s mansion while Republicans controlled the House. That partisan makeup returned this year with Gov. Roy Cooper’s move into the Executive Mansion.

Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, rejected Jackson’s proposal. He expressed concerns about the lack of constitutional guidance on the topic, along with the House’s desire to keep its veto rules in conformity with those of Senate counterparts. He labeled Jackson’s proposal “largely unenforceable.”

A voice vote killed Jackson’s proposal, along with a separate amendment that would have boosted the number of bills a House member could file as lead sponsor from 15 to 20. Jackson mentioned during discussion of that amendment that only one colleague, Guilford County Rep. Pricey Harrison, had asked for the change.

The Rules Committee did endorse several other changes to the House’s rules. Among them: New House committees would deal with health care reform and University of North Carolina Board of Governors nominations.

Visitors to the N.C. House chamber would have to clear the room 10 minutes before the start of each daily session. (The current rule calls for a five-minute window.) A new rule would prevent visitors from walking into the chamber for the first five minutes after the House adjourns.

Another change would clarify rules for dividing a particular bill for multiple votes. Other changes deal with such issues as legislative deadlines and legislative assistants.

During the afternoon floor debate, the full House rejected four rules amendments and approved one.

  • The House voted 68-48 to reject a measure that would have required budget, or appropriations, bills to identify the lawmaker who asked for any nonbudget items known as “special provisions”;
  • The House voted 76-40 to reject Harrison’s proposal to boost the number of bills each representative could sponsor from 15 to 20;
  • The House voted 98-18 to approve an amendment clarifying the rule governing when a representative can call for a bill or an amendment to be split in two for separate votes;
  • The House voted 71-45 to reject Jackson’s proposal for addressing the “veto garage”; and
  • The House voted 106-9 to reject a proposal limiting when the N.C. House speaker can add new members to standing House committees.

The House took no vote on a further amendment that would have limited all nonbudget bills to a single subject.