House Democrats say they were “drawing maps” during veto override
Raleigh, N.C. – State House leaders addressed members of the media on Wednesday about their successful override of the state budget to dispel demonstrably false claims by Democrats that they were told the regularly scheduled floor session would not include recorded votes.
Contrary to those false claims by House Democrats that they were told there would be no recorded votes in today’s session, two public announcements were made that there would be recorded votes on Wednesday (5:20 mark of the House audio archive.)
“It will be the chair’s desire to strike the referral to the Committee on Rules and place this bill on the House calendar pursuant to rule 36(b) for tomorrow,” House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett) said in Tuesday’s afternoon legislative session.
“Is there objection to striking the referral to rules? Seeing none the referral to the committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House is stricken, pursuant to Rule 36(b) the bill is placed upon the calendar for tomorrow.”
Today’s veto override of the state budget puts North Carolina one step closer to delivering a historic school construction initiative to benefit education communities across the state.
House Democrat Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) asserted that her caucus was absent because they were “drawing maps” during the budget veto override, a potential violation of a court order that all such redistricting efforts take place in public view.
House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett) made the following remarks at a press conference on Wednesday:
“Today the North Carolina House voted to override the Governor’s budget veto and put us one step closer to delivering historic investments and pay raises to citizens in all 100 counties of this state,” Chairman Lewis said Wednesday.
“While presiding over the House yesterday, which I consider one of the highest honors the Speaker could ask of me, I made a public announcement that there would be recorded votes today.”
“In fact, I announced twice there would be recorded votes today.”
“I asked twice if there was objection to placing two budget bills on the calendar to vote on today. There was no objection.”
“This morning, Rep. Deb Butler repeatedly shouted that there was a public announcement of no votes today.”
“This is completely false. There was no such announcement. To the contrary, I publicly announced twice that there would be recorded votes today.”
“Further, it became apparent on the floor that the real reason the Democrats were not in session is that they were in a closed door caucus meeting.”
“In Rep. Butler’s own words, they were downstairs ‘drawing maps,’ what could be a clear violation of the court’s order.”
“I never said nor represented to any member that there would be no recorded votes in this morning’s session.”
“If House Democrats have any evidence to the contrary, I encourage them to come forward with it.”
“When there are no recorded votes planned for a House session, the Speaker or Chair will explicitly announce that. The Speaker’s office also sends emails to the body to advise the members of plans not to take any recorded votes.”
“Neither of those happened.”
“No one announced there would be no recorded votes from the chair, or by email, as is the standard procedure in the House when there will not be recorded votes.”
“And again, to the contrary, I explicitly announced there would be recorded votes today. Twice.”
“After I announced there would be recorded votes today, Rep. Darren Jackson approached me to ask if Democrats could caucus prior to taking recorded votes on the two budget bills that were added to the calendar.”
“I recall telling Rep. Jackson that they could caucus before the House would vote on those two budget bills that were added to the calendar.”
“However, at no time yesterday did Rep. Jackson ask me if there would be any recorded votes in the morning session, or about the veto override of the state budget.”
“When there will be no votes in a legislative session that is an announcement that only the Speaker of the House can make.”
“As an example, yesterday, the Speaker announced there would be no recorded votes in the 4:30 pm session over which I presided. As announced, we held session, and no recorded votes were taken.”
“I would note that House Republicans had the votes to override the veto at yesterday’s session, but of course, we did not. Because the Speaker had announced there would not be votes at that session.”
“I have never, nor would I ever, make a decision that is only the Speaker’s prerogative.”
“The Speaker and I are both serving our ninth term in the House. We have far too much respect for this institution to tell the other party there would be no recorded votes, and then hold a vote.”
“The Speaker of the House has said throughout this budget process that he would take the veto override when it had the votes to pass. House Democrats are well aware of this procedure.”
“They complain regularly that they are forced to attend legislative sessions because the veto override could be called at any time.”
“I appreciate Rep. Jackson saying publicly today that he takes responsibility for falsely informing his caucus there would not be recorded votes in today’s 8:30AM session.”
“As House Democrats are well aware, no-vote sessions are explicitly announced. Either from the chair on the floor of the House, or by emails to members, or both.”
“I do not know why Rep. Jackson interpreted our conversation that there would be no recorded votes in today’s session.”
“I value the very positive relationship that I have with the House Minority Leader, Rep. Jackson, but today I do not understand why he would make an accusation so bold that I lied to him.”
“Just moments ago, the Governor delivered remarks about this budget and about our successful override of his veto. It was clear by his remarks that this all boils down to a policy disagreement.”
“The Governor and the House Democrats are seeking to find an excuse for why they were not in session this morning.”
“I will not allow them to lie about what I have said or suggest that my integrity has been compromised in any way.”
Chairman Lewis and state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) answered questions from the media about the budget veto override.
“I confirmed that there was never any notice that went out saying there would not be recorded votes,” said Speaker Moore.
“Under our rules, we took a vote on the override. It was properly noticed. The procedures were properly followed, and we took the vote.”
Speaker Moore said he would keep his commitment to vote on House Bill 655 NC Health Care for Working Families now that the budget override was complete, a bill proposing a type of Medicaid expansion that includes work requirements.
“I’m going to keep my word, we’re going to vote on that bill,” Speaker Moore said of H.B. 655, “sometime next week.”
“I said when I realized we had the opportunity to do the veto override, we’re going to do it.”
“I’ve always been very clear. When I’ve told folks there’s not going to be votes, there are not votes. I’ve kept my word on that. I challenge any member to argue to the contrary. I never said there weren’t going to be votes. I never authorized anyone to say there wouldn’t be votes.”
“I would invite members of the public to go listen to the audio online, for anybody to hear, and in that audio you will hear it was made very clear that there would in fact be votes today. Session was adjourned until 8:30 a.m. this morning. That’s what happened.”
Speaker Moore noted that no votes were taken in the 4:30 p.m. legislative session on Tuesday – when Chairman Lewis announced votes would be taken on Wednesday – and that no votes were taken at the Tuesday session consist with his announcement.
“We could have taken the override on Tuesday, but of course we did not, because we publicly announced there would be no votes.”
“This is a difference over policy. The Governor has a different idea on some things on the budget, and Democrats have different ideas, but we are the majority in the House and the Senate.”
“I will continue to honor my word that when I say there’s not going to be votes, then there won’t be votes. I’m also going to honor my word when I saw a chance for us to get this override done and finally get this budget done, I’m going to take that opportunity to do it.”
The North Carolina House returned to session at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.