Re-districting primary focus
By Lindsay Marchello
Carolina Journal News Service
Raleigh — The fate of the budget veto override lies in the Senate, but don’t expect a vote any time soon.
For now, redistricting is the Senate’s primary focus.
Bill D’Elia, spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the Senate is laser-focused on finishing the process of redrawing the legislative maps as required by a three-judge Superior Court panel. The court said last week it needs to see the maps no later than 5 p.m. Thursday.
“We will turn our attention back to other priorities, including the path forward on the budget, once that process is complete,” D’Elia said in an emailed statement.
The Senate is facing a challenge, says Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University, especially considering how the House went about overriding the governor’s veto in a surprise vote Sept. 11.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the $24 billion budget June 28, and the override remained on the House calendar for weeks as Speaker of the House Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, waited for the right opportunity to call a vote.
With only nine House Democrats in the chamber, Moore called for the vote, and the measure passed, 55-9. House Democrats say they were misled, as they were under the impression that no morning votes would be held. House Republicans deny accusations they intentionally misled their colleagues.
The House managed to override the budget veto, but the move left Democrat lawmakers seething.
The fact that Senate Republicans are down a vote makes it even tougher to override.
On Sept. 10, Sen. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg, won the 9th Congressional District special election. He’s leaving the General Assembly this week for Washington, D.C., and his seat in the General Assembly will remain vacant until a replacement is appointed.
Before Bishop left, Republicans needed at least one Senate Democrat to join them to override. Now, they will need at least two, until Bishop’s successor is sworn in.
“It’ll be harder now because of what happened in the House. The pressure on Democrats is going to be greater,” Taylor said. “It’ll be harder for any individual Democrat, because they’ll be seen as validating what went down in the House.”
Taylor said the Senate could sit on the veto override to further pressure Cooper to change his position on Medicaid expansion, which lawmakers failed to include in the budget plan. It’s the biggest reason for Cooper’s veto, and Democrats haven’t broken ranks with the governor.
After the veto, the General Assembly pursued several mini-budgets covering state pay raises, school safety measures, rape kit testing, and prison safety initiatives. Some of the mini-budgets have passed, including one to draw down federal dollars and another to give raises to State Highway Patrol officers.
Taylor said the mini-budgets could return if it looks as though the Senate can’t pass the veto override. It also depends, in part, on what House lawmakers were thinking.
“If it was a sincere effort to override the veto, by hook or by crook, and the thinking is the Senate won’t be able to do it, then they are likely to revert to the mini-budgets,” Taylor said. “But if it was part of an effort to pressure the governor, then they will wait and see if [the pressure] has the desired effect.”