On Feb. 15, the N.C. House of Representatives passed its permanent rules for the 2023-2024 session. One rule will allow votes that override a governor's veto to be taken up on any legislative day, without alerting members of the House before the vote.
On Jan. 11, the House passed new temporary rules, which did not include any required notice of veto overrides, according to N.C. Rep. Allen Buansi (D-Orange).
Buansi said prior to this rules package, there was a notice given between 24 to 72 hours before a vote to override a gubernatorial veto. If the requirement were to be removed, a vote to override the governor's veto could be taken at any time.
“This is problematic on many different levels,” Buansi said. “Mainly for the sake of public transparency, it's not good for our democracy and for voters and certainly for the media if they don’t have any prior notice of votes to override the governor's veto.”
He also said Gov. Roy Cooper has been using his veto power on bills related to restrictions of reproductive rights, gun safety and voting rights in the past two years.
The permanent rules passed in the House with the support of all Republican members and five Democrats. The remaining 43 Democrats voted against the rules package, with one Democrat being absent from the vote.
There are 71 Republican and 49 Democratic representatives in the N.C. House. The current requirement to override a gubernatorial veto is set at three-fifths of the members of both legislative chambers – or a supermajority.
Republicans hold a supermajority in the state Senate and are just one vote short of the supermajority in the House.
If just one Democratic member in the state's House is absent, Republicans could not overturn a veto as it would not pass the three-fifths threshold for that chamber. Either one Democrat would have to vote to override the veto or two Democrats would have to be absent, given that all Republican members vote to override.
Rep. Eric Ager (D-Buncombe) said he sees the change as an effort to achieve a one-sided government.
“The big impact is that it means that people on the Democratic side have to show up every day, and I think that’s true on the Republican side as well, but the Democrats are going to have much less information on when a vote may actually be called,” he said.
Ager said he saw the lack of notice as making it more difficult for representatives to plan their lives.
“People do go on vacations. People have kids that get sick. People have parents that get sick. And they’re not going to be able to take time off from the legislature to go take care of those problems if there’s a veto waiting to come up,” he said.
Rep. Kelly M. Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) said the move shifts the balance of power towards the legislature and away from the Cooper administration.
“Electing as many Republicans as have been elected, people who are fearful of certain measures being passed and who, in the previous session, were counting on the governor to backstop and veto and for the veto being sustained are in a worse position,” he said.
In the 2022 elections, Republicans gained two seats in the N.C. House, bringing the GOP closer to supermajority status in the House.
Buansi highlighted the fact that governments within North Carolina, including school boards and county commissioners, usually publish agendas in advance of meetings for public transparency.
“We’re not even doing what most governments do — and that’s a travesty,” he said.
Republicans contacted for this story, including House rules committee chairperson Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell, Watauga) and House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford), did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's interview requests before the time of publication.
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