Raleigh, N.C. — House Republicans on Thursday praised the proposed overhaul of state boards and commissions for cutting the size and cost of state government.
But at the same time, caucus leaders used a procedural move to bury a proposal to slash the six-figure salaries of members of the state Utility Commission.
The amendment, run by Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover, would have cut the salaries from more than $120,000 a year to about $80,000.
With the amendment before the House for a vote, Republican Rules Chairman Tim Moore used a parliamentary maneuver – a motion for the amendment "to lie upon the table" – to bury the proposal.
When a chamber votes that a motion "do lie upon the table," it removes all trace of the proposed amendment from the legislative record. The "tabling" vote is also not easily available to the public. It offers the majority a convenient way to not only erase all traces of a proposal but to shield the identities of those who voted to erase it.
In this case, the tablng vote succeeded on party lines, 59-41, but at least ten members of the Republican majority didn't vote for it.
Asked to explain why he moved to table the amendment, Moore, R-Cleveland, said, "I felt the amendment was not relevant for the bill and that it was an appropriations issue for the budget."
After the session, Hamilton said at a news conference that she ran the amendment to cut the salaries by about 35 percent because it matches the recent state unemployment benefit cuts.
"We felt as if – if the unemployed in this state were going to be reduced by that amount of money, then at the very least, the volunteers who are working on commissions in this state should have to experience the same sort of reduction," Hamilton explained.
"Unfortunately," she said, because of the procedural move, "we were never able to fully vet or fully explore that opportunity."
House Minority Leader Larry Hall blasted the Republican majority for claiming transparency.
“Rep. Hamilton’s amendment was put upon the table so that we could NOT discuss it in the light of day before the people," Hall, D-Durham, told reporters.
"So once again, the Republican majority is telling the public, 'We’re open and honest and transparent,'" he said, "but again, we’ve been shut out. We the people are shut out of this process, and we think it needs to open up."