House Speaker Thom Tillis talked to reporters today after the short constitutional session adjourned. He covered a wide range of topics. Here’s the highlights - you can see the unedited interview below.
Tillis also said he doesn’t think lawmakers will return to any constitutional amendments, including term limits, before next year’s short session.
“I hope we go with shorter term limits,” he said. “I hope we can get the Senate to agree to a compromise of maybe three consecutive terms. I just feel like the four consecutive terms is too long. It would only be relevant to maybe one leader in recent times,” he said, referring to longtime former Senate Pro Tem Marc Basnight.
Minority leaders in both chambers denounced this week’s constitutional session as a waste of time and money - $50,000 a day according to the Legislative Services office, though Tillis said he thinks the figure is closer to $40,000 a day.
“The reason we came up with the whole concept of a constitutional session was to send a very clear message that we weren’t going to be distracted with these emotionally charged bills in the midst of doing all of our economic and jobs reform bills. That’s why we decided not to do it back in May or June. I think if we had, it would have had the effect of making those efforts less productive,” Tillis said.
Tillis said the people who asked for the legal corrections made this week, including the governor, probably wouldn’t say the session was a waste of time. He also pointed out that the House adjourned early today because Democrats wanted to attend President Obama’s speech at NC State.
“We got our work done. We’re moving on,” he said.
House Democrats from areas stricken by Hurricane Irene criticized GOP leaders for not acting on a relief proposal this week. But Tillis said no proposal is ready yet to be acted on, though he emphasized that lawmakers stood ready to help in any way needed.
“We’ve made it very clear to the governor that to the extent legislative action is required, we would come back on her call,” Tillis said. “Our question to [the Democrats] is, where’s the outstanding request [for help] that we haven’t addressed? The fact of the matter is, there isn’t any.”
Gay marriage debate
Tillis said he hoped the debate over the same-sex marriage amendment wouldn’t become divisive and nasty over the coming 8 months leading up to its ballot appearance in the May 2012 primary.
“I hope that you all have observed my concern with showing both sides of this debate the utmost respect,” he said. “I will do everything I can do as a leader in the Republican caucus to be absolutely certain those who are in favor of it keep it at that level.”
Two Republican leaders backing the amendment, Reps. Dale Folwell and Skip Stam, reported receiving threatening phone calls and messages in recent days. Both were escorted around the legislative complex this week by armed law enforcement officers. Tillis on marriage amendment, term limits, disaster relief
Tillis, however, said he had not received any such threats. “I think a lot of the way we can avoid it is to be very mindful of how we present the issue, and very respectful. It’s within our hands to avoid most of that, and I believe that we will.”
Watch the unedited interview at right.