Senate rules forbid committee roll call votes

Posted April 22, 2013

— Someone planted a bug in the ear of @NCCapitol on Monday regarding a story from last week.

As Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer reported, a Senate Judiciary Committee ended with some cross words between Rep. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, and a newspaper publisher over a bill that would allow local governments to advertise meetings online, rather than in their local newspapers. As Morrill reported: 

"The committee passed the measure by voice vote. Tucker, the chair, rejected a subsequent appeal for a show of hands and declared the meeting adjourned," Morrill wrote.

"At that point, Hal Tanner, publisher of the Goldsboro News-Argus, approached Tucker. He told him he thought the vote was handled in a manner inconsistent with Republican stands for open government.

“I said, ‘We just got through dealing with Jim Black,’ ” Tanner later recalled, referring to the former Democratic House speaker jailed for corruption.

“I’m not Jim Black, I’m not Jim Black,” an angry Tucker replied. Senate rules prohibit roll call votes in committee."

Since when, a friendly @NCCapitol correspondent asked, do Senate rules prohibit roll call votes in committees?

Since at least 1999, which is the date of the oldest copy of the Senate Rules directory that could be found in the press room at the legislature Monday afternoon. 

Rule 35 states, "No roll call vote may be taken in any committee."

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca said he didn't know why Rule 35 was written the way it was. However, it is definitely a holdover from when Democrats were in charge of the chamber. 

That's in contrast to the House, where lawmakers sitting on a committee can be called upon to sound off individually "yea" or "nay" on a particular bill. The majority of committee work in both chambers is handled by voice vote, because it's usually blazingly obvious which way the vote has gone and many matters are unanimous or procedural.

But last week's vote on the newspaper bill was close, and those in the room said they believed opponents might have had the votes to stop the bill, at least temporarily.

The bill was up for a hearing on the Senate floor Monday night.

All that said, while a chairman can't order a roll call, he can order "division," during which every member raises his or her hand to indicate support or opposition to a bill. As Morrill noted, Tucker gaveled the meeting to a close before the call for division could be heard.

1 Comment

This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • HeadsUp Apr 24, 2013

    So Senator Tucker certainly could have called for a show of hands to make sure he had the vote right -- if he had wanted to.