Raleigh, N.C. — As the 9-to-5 workday wound down Tuesday, it was unclear whether a budget deal would get done. At that time, House members were very optimistic but the Senate insisted that there was no deal.
When I checked in with legislative staffers by phone around 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, all signs were pointing to negotiations breaking down. But sometime between those conversations and 8:40 p.m. when I wandered back into the legislative building, attitudes had change.
A deal was coming.
By 10 p.m., it was all but official. Shortly before 11 p.m., Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger, confirmed that there was a budget. Jordan Shaw, House Speaker Thom Tillis' spokesman, confirmed that pronouncement.
What we don't know yet it what's in the thing. House and Senate negotiators were talking somewhere in the legislative complex to which reporters did not have ready access.
In years past, reporters would sit directly outside the room where the budget deal was being forged between House and Senate leadership. After the deal was struck, the lead negotiators would share a few tidbits about what compromises were made.
This year, we're going to have to wait for details. Legislative leaders did not give any hint what may be in the bill Tuesday night. House and Senate leaders have scheduled a 11 a.m. news conference to give reporters the budget rundown. Staff members say that's when the budget should be posted on the General Assembly's website.
Even with all the cloak and dagger, lawmakers didn't get the budget officially filed with the House and Senate clerks before midnight as they had hoped.
Why the push Tuesday to get the budget "read in" before midnight?
House Rule 44(d) says, ""No vote shall be taken on adoption of a conference report until the next legislative day following the report, except that no vote shall be taken on adoption of a conference report on either the Current Operations Appropriations Bill or a bill generally revising the Current Operations Appropriations Act until the second legislative day following the report."
Should the budget have been read in Tuesday night, the second legislative day would have been Thursday, normally the last day in the legislative work week.
With the conference report coming Wednesday, the House could technically have to wait until Friday or after to vote the budget. It's possible they could hold a Thursday vote anyway, but Republicans would need the cooperation of Democrats to make that happen.
So why not just come back and vote next week?
Lawmakers hope to leave town before July 4. But Gov. Bev Perdue is unlikely to sign the budget and may veto the measure. If the legislature is in session, Perdue has 10 days to issue a veto. If lawmakers leave town, the governor has 30 days before she needs to take action.
If lawmakers vote by Thursday, that 10 day clock would expire on Sunday, July 1, allowing Republican leaders to hold what they believe would be a successful veto override on Monday July 2 and leave town shortly after that vote. Even a Friday budget vote would likely allow lawmakers to leave town on July 3.