The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

Transparently partisan parliamentary games

That was quite a display Thursday by the House Republican leaders. With just two bills left on the calendar for debate, they abruptly stopped Thursday’s floor session for a couple of hours so Republicans could attend a closed party meeting across the street at the Museum of Life and Science. The state’s business could wait.

Several Democrats decided not to sit twiddling their thumbs while the Republicans held their political meeting and headed home for the weekend. That meant the Republicans had more than the 3/5 majority needed to override Governor Perdue’s veto of their bill to exempt North Carolina from the national health care reform law.

Wednesday’s vote to override the veto fell short as all 51 Democrats present voted to sustain it. In order to vote again, Republicans needed to reconsider the vote taken the day before, but only a House member who votes on the winning side can move to reconsider the vote and all the Republicans voted on the losing side.

No problem, House Majority Leader Paul Stam was ready to change his vote to no on Wednesday’s veto override, putting him then on the prevailing side and allowing him to make the motion to reconsider the vote so the House could vote on the veto again.

Oddly, members of the House are allowed to change their vote any time as long as it doesn’t change the outcome of the legislation. Of course you could argue that in this case Stam changing his vote DID affect the outcome because it allowed Republicans to reconsider the vote.

The motion to reconsider the vote must be made the day after the original vote fails. But that rule, like virtually all rules, can be suspended with a 2/3 vote of the House.

The Democrats still had enough votes to block that, but faced with a certain override of Perdue’s veto Thursday because of the Republican shenanigans, House Minority Leader Joe Hackney made a deal with House Speaker Thom Tillis and agreed to suspend the rule that limits the reconsideration of a vote to the next day.

That basically means that Republicans can call for another vote to override Perdue’s veto anytime they want, and Tillis said that will be their policy with all vetoes, to keep the vetoed legislation alive with a similar bending of the rules.

Tillis actually claimed the high road after the troubling maneuver, claiming he had the votes to ram the veto override through Thursday afternoon and that’s true, but only because Democrats were misled into believing that no other business was coming before the House after the Republicans had their private museum meeting.

Tillis deserves little praise. He has no high road here, he was treading only on a slightly less low one that he could have taken.

The fate of Perdue’s all vetoes will now be determined by who is present in the House on any given day from now until the short session adjourns in the summer of 2012 or as Tillis put it Democrats “better show up for work.”

They also apparently better be prepared to sit and wait while Republicans suspend state business to have their political meetings.

One of the Democrats who left when Republicans suspended Thursday’s session was Rep. Pricey Harrison who needed to head home to plan the funeral of her sister, who passed away last week.

And ironically, just two days before the parliamentary gymnastics Tillis wished Democratic Rep. Bill Owens a speedy recovery from quadruple bypass surgery at UNC Hospital.

Owens can’t “show up for work” and thanks to Tillis’ partisan games with the rules, that might have serious ramifications for important legislation this year.

Waning support for the right-wing agenda

The reality of the Republicans’ plan to slash education funding another $760 million beyond the cuts recommended by Governor Perdue is starting to sink in, even to Republicans. The N&O quoted Clay County School Superintendent Douglas Penland this week who “described himself as a lifelong Republican who was energized by the November GOP victories…”

Penland told the N&O that because of the proposed cuts in education “with each passing day, my euphoria is waning.” He also said he now personally does four administrative jobs and that there is no place left to cut.

This week the education budget subcommittee pored over a list of possible reductions that included laying off more than 17,000 teacher assistants, 6,000 teachers and making sharp reductions in administrative and support personnel at the state and local level. Mr. Penland hasn’t seen anything yet.

From the Fringe

Old reliable Fringer George Leef with the Pope Center to Dismantle Public Higher Education is back, this week going after the New York Times and Michael Moore for suggesting that maybe deep cuts to the federal budget might actually hurt people.

Leef says “there will always be pleaders for more government spending who tug at the heartstrings and proclaim that they could do very good things if only the government would stop being so cheap. Big government advocates seem to be unable to tell such people, “Go out and ask for money.”

There you have in a nutshell Leef’s view of the world. People with a disability, children with special needs, seniors who need help, there’s no need for anybody in government to worry about it. All it takes is a few fundraisers.
That’s the solution on Planet Leef, where the holy market rules everything.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.
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