Suspicions abound during brief legislative session
Posted February 16, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina General Assembly reconvened in Raleigh briefly Thursday amid worries by Democrats and activists that Republican could take some surprise action.
Republican legislative leaders kept to their promise that no votes would be taken during the skeleton session, including no potential overrides of Gov. Beverly Perdue's vetoes.
The GOP had set aside three days this week to handle redistricting matters that never materialized, but the special session was already written into law.
"We would have to pass a new adjournment resolution, which would require a quorum, which would require the Senate to meet, so it's easier just to come back," House Rules Chairman Tim Moore said.
Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, said lawmakers should try to address issues like job creation or education instead of coming to Raleigh to do nothing. If no actions are taken, he said, lawmakers ought to forgo their $104 per diem.
"I already have forgone my pay for the day," said Faison, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. "I would agree that everyone should forgo it if we're having a session where nothing is being done."
House Speaker Thom Tillis also asked all House Republicans to skip their per diem.
The nonpartisan Legislative Services Office estimates that having the General Assembly in session for a day costs taxpayers about $50,000 – that's more than the average state worker makes per year. If all lawmakers passed on their pay, it would cut the by about a third. Expenses for travel, staffing, security and printing have already been incurred.
House Democrats remain suspicious of their GOP colleagues after a meeting last month in which an unscheduled after-midnight session was held to override a veto involving member dues and the North Carolina Association of Educators.
"Because of the events of January 4th and 5th, most Democrats just thought it was a good idea to show up (Thursday)," House Minority Leader Joe Hackney said.
Opponents of Republican policies rallied Thursday morning to protest the override, but security officers removed them from the Legislative Building.
Another special session set for April, and Faison said he hopes Republican leaders will agree to work on economic bills at that meeting.
"If we're going to have these silly interim sessions they've been doing that accomplish absolutely nothing productive, what we ought to do is step up and do the job we've been elected to do," he said.
Both the House and Senate are meeting one more time Saturday morning to officially adjourn. GOP leaders maintain that, even with all of the special sessions, they have spent fewer days in session – and less money – than their Democratic predecessors.