Raleigh, N.C. — Council of State meetings are really the sorts of occasion that shouldn't make news. Mainly, the 10 state officials elected statewide – the governor, treasurer, agriculture commissioner, etc. – get together and approve land purchases, leases and the like.
Unless one of the land transactions happens to involve Dorothea Dix, as was the case earlier this year, or how the state puts prisoners to death, as happened under former Gov. Mike Easley, the meetings tend to be sedate affairs.
So, why do a gaggle of reporters show up every month?
To try to tackle Gov. Pat McCrory and get him to sound off on issues of the day. Considering he has two vetoes pending before the legislature right now, we figured he'd have some stuff on his mind. Turns out, what he had on his mind was catching a plane to Wilmington for a 1 p.m. event.
Enter Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who took the opportunity to talk up his point of view on the issues of the day.
MAGISTRATES BILL: Forest backs the bill that would allow magistrates and some county register of deeds employees to opt out of participating in marriages. Although those employees would have to opt out of all marriages, the bill is clearly aimed at same-sex couples.
McCrory vetoed the measure, and the Senate has voted to override that veto. Forest says he's rooting for the House to do the same.
"Certainly, the government has to have a compelling interest before they dictate to someone who works for the government that they can or can't do something like that," Forest said. "Senate Bill 2 is a good bill; it accommodates everybody. People who are getting married and want to get married can still get married, and people who have strongly held religious beliefs can gracefully back out of doing marriages altogether. So, I think the bill has been misrepresented a lot."
Has the governor "misrepresented" the bill?
"I don't know that he misrepresented," Forest said. "He certainly has his opinions on constitutionality and what these officers of the government ought to be doing on the constitution."
He said this is an area where he and the governor agree to disagree.
ABORTION: On the abortion bill recently passed by the state Senate, which triples the waiting period for women seeking abortion, Forest says he doesn't know if he and McCrory don't see eye-to-eye.
"The waiting period issue is not that controversial," Forest said. "There are a number of states that have a 72-hour waiting period for abortion. ... I think he will agree with that bill, and he will sign it when it comes across his desk."
McCrory has told reporters that he doesn't want to take a stand on another potential veto or whether he would sign the bill until lawmakers send him the bill.
PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDERS: Several GOP presidential contenders are due to visit the North Carolina Republican Party convention at the end of this week. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas are all scheduled to speak during prime spots at the convention.
"Just about every candidate that's coming through town, I've had the opportunity to meet with. (They're) great folks. I think they could all serve well in the position," Forest said.
"Obviously, I'm going to keep my powder dry for a while. We have a long time until November of next year," he said, declining to pick a favorite from among the field.