Moments after Cleveland County state Rep. Tim Moore was selected for a historic and record-setting fifth term as speaker, the Kings Mountain Republican made it clear that if North Carolina legislative Democrats and Gov. Roy Cooper want to obstruct the Republican majority, it will be tough sledding.
In the Senate, Republicans have exactly the 30 members needed for a supermajority, which is precisely three-fifths of the 50-member chamber and allows the state Senate GOP to override Cooper’s vetoes without Democratic votes.
As Sen. Phil Berger Sr, R-Rockingham, begins his seventh term as leader of the state Senate, a key goal for Berger is further cutting taxes for North Carolina citizens and businesses.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the voters of North Carolina have clearly said they want the type of pro-business, less tax, less regulation policy that we have pursued,” Berger said.
In comments on the first day of the session, Berger urged senators, on both sides of the aisle, to “come together, no matter our party… I believe we can achieve a shared goal of moving North Carolina forward,” he said. “Despite any disagreements, we owe it to the people of this great state to work tirelessly for them.”
Berger added that he’d like to see the personal income tax rate lowered from 4.75% to 3% or lower. Republicans will also look to once again pass a photograph identification requirement for voting and other changes to voting rules designed to increase confidence in the system.
Republicans will look to further deregulate business and industry, as they have every session since they won control of both chambers of the legislature in 2010. Republicans will attempt to strike a middle ground on abortion, keeping the procedure legal during the first trimester, but heavily restricting the procedure in the later months of pregnancy.
Cooper and legislative Democrats hope that the state House can be a firewall for them, used to kill Republican bills.
Controlling 71 of 120 seats in the lower chamber, Republicans in the state House are just one vote short of a Republican supermajority. Republicans can override a veto with a single Democrat vote or their 71 votes can override if a couple of Democrats happen to be absent.
Democrats began protesting and working the media referees on the first day when House Speaker Tim Moore announced that the chamber’s rules would make it harder for Democrats to sustain a veto. For this session, gone is the rule requiring a cooling off period between a veto and an override vote. The House speaker can call up a veto override at a moment’s notice. As reported by WRAL:
“In a party-line vote Wednesday, Republican state House members passed rules for their chamber allowing the speaker to call a vote on Cooper’s vetoes without notice. Under House rules approved for the previous legislative session, members couldn’t vote to override a gubernatorial veto ‘until the second legislative day following notice of its placement on the calendar.’”
The state Senate still requires 24-hour notice for veto overrides.
Moore, who previously supported rules requiring advanced notice of veto override votes, told reporters he doesn’t think the change is a big deal.
“Why are we treating a veto override procedural vote different than the others?” he said as reported by WRAL.
The North Carolina Democratic Party sent a press release with the headline “Tim Moore’s Latest Attempt To Consolidate Power, Sow Chaos, & Undermine Democracy.”
“The public deserves a transparent and accountable government — a hastily called vote while a representative is in the bathroom does everyone a disservice and erodes the democratic process,” said NCDP Chair Bobbie Richardson. “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.”
Democrat state House leader Robert Reives, made similar comments:
“Say we’re in the middle of notices and announcements. People have started clearing out. They’re going home. They’re going to see their families, to have dinner, things of that sort. All of a sudden, that (veto override) can be called up,” Reives told reporters.
“When we do things like this, I do think it erodes public faith in institutions,” he said.
During his time in office, Cooper has vetoed more bills than all previous N.C. governors combined.
And as reported by Carolina Journal, Cooper wasted no time expressing “outrage.”
“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.”
The fact is this was always going to happen. It is the least surprising news since reporters declared, “Shock!! Sun Rises in the East, Sets in the West.”
Liberal activist Rob Schofield wrote in NCPolicy Watch that the House Republicans’ rule adjustment is equivalent to HB2, North Carolina’s controversial bathroom bill that was designed to restrict public restroom use to people of the same gender.
“Now, however, one of the chief architects of the HB 2 disaster, state House Speaker Tim Moore, is back with a new and very different — but equally absurd — kind of bathroom bill, or to be more precise, bathroom rule. And this one too appears to have been fueled by the never-sated demands of right-wing social crusaders,” wrote Schofield. “Republicans could, quite literally and outrageously, call for an override vote when a House member is at a family funeral, or even at the very moment someone leaves the House floor to use the bathroom.”
Republicans highly dispute they could call a bill up on a second’s notice while a member is taking a quick restroom pit stop.
But on the rule change in general, Democrats would do exactly the same thing if they were in the same position as Republicans. There is nothing constitutionally, legally, or ethically requiring the majority party to make it easy for the minority party to block their bills.
I contend this makes it impossible for Democrats to uphold most potential vetoes. Making sure every single member of the House Democrat caucus is on the floor, during every session for 18 months, is not practicable or possible.
Democrats are virtually powerless to stop the GOP agenda. Running to the press and getting them to do the Democrat’s bidding is about all they have, even if it is absurd.
When the press reported that Moore and House Republicans were just beginning to discuss potential abortion legislation, WRAL screamed in its headline:
“NC abortion fight likely to begin behind closed doors.”
Democrat Rep. Julie von Haefen (D-Wake) tweeted:
So, the press and a Democratic state representative are complaining that a potential abortion bill will start like every other bill ever passed by the General Assembly, a conversation among supporters of what a bill would look like when introduced before it is fully debated in public by both chambers of the legislature.
Look for more of this foolishness as the General Assembly begins its work in earnest. Voters have put Republicans in charge of the General Assembly for the last decade, for seven consecutive elections. Voters selected huge GOP majorities in the last election. They were sent to cut taxes, expand school choice, and advance Republican priorities, including the creation of new congressional and legislative districts that will favor Republicans.
Democrats will struggle to block any GOP legislation on the floor. They no longer have a like-minded state Supreme Court to block GOP legislation. Cooper can veto, but if he does, it’s highly likely he is overridden.
They can and will complain to the press that every GOP move is the end of Democracy, mean, unfair, or all of the above. Republicans will ignore the noise and do what voters sent them to do.