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Dem, GOP leaders spar over call for lie detector test on veto override vote

Posted September 23, 2019 1:04 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2019 6:44 p.m. EDT

— Calling the veto override vote two weeks ago "a deliberate, dishonest assault on the Democratic process," House Minority Leader Darren Jackson is challenging House Republican leaders to take a lie detector test to prove they did not intentionally deceive House Democrats.

"House Republican leadership lied about the session on Sept. 11. They have continued to lie about it ever since," Jackson, D-Wake, told reporters at a news conference Monday. "The events of that morning did not result from a miscommunication. I was lied to."

Jackson provided reporters with the results of a lie detector test he took last week, which he says proves he truly believed he was told there would be no votes that morning. He called on House Speaker Tim Moore, House Rules Chairman David Lewis, Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, and Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, to do the same, adding that he would even pay for the tests if they let him write the questions.

Hours later, Moore responded with a press conference of his own, saying members of the House received proper notice of the vote and that the procedure followed the chamber's rules.

"I've been upfront and straightforward with you guys from Day One," Moore, R-Cleveland, said to members of the press Monday afternoon. "I've said from the beginning: When I saw a chance to take a vote, I would do it."

On Sept. 11, shortly after convening an early morning session at which most Republicans were present but few Democrats were, Moore called for an override vote on Gov. Roy Cooper’s June veto of the state budget.

The override passed easily. The vetoed budget now sits in the Senate, where it hasn’t yet been scheduled for a vote.

Jackson said publicly just after the vote that Lewis, R-Hernett, told him the night before there would be no votes taken at the 8:30 a.m. session. Jackson said Lewis, who was filling in for Moore, told him the House would reconvene at 1 p.m. for its voting session. Jackson said he had relayed that information to House Democrats, which was why most of them weren’t present at the 8:30 a.m. session.

However, most House Republicans were there, having received messages from their leaders saying Democrats might be planning to try some motions on redistricting.

Lewis denied ever having told Jackson that there would be no votes at the 8:30 a.m. session. Lewis admitted he did say that in a text to WRAL News, but said he told no one else, and WRAL did not publicize the information.

Moore that day defended the decision to call the override vote. He said he alone can make the decision that a session will be a no-vote session, and he never made that announcement to anyone. Moore added that he had said for months he would wait to call the vote until a time when many Democrats were absent in order to reach the three-fifths threshold needed for a veto override – and that’s what he did.

Jackson dismissed Republican concerns about Democratic maneuvering, pointing out that the House speaker can easily shut down anything of the kind simply by refusing to recognize a motion. He said Republicans were neither confused nor surprised, as Moore previously insisted.

Instead, Jackson argued, the lack of any floor conversation on the GOP side of the House illustrates that majority members were told in advance about "a planned veto sneak-attack on the morning of Sept. 11."

"I do not see any path forward to reconciliation so long as the leadership and their offices continue to lie about what happened," Jackson said. "If the majority cannot be trusted, then the public deserves to know it."

Moore, meanwhile, disputed Jackson's Monday morning allegations and said they came with little notice.

"I think Rep. Jackson clearly has to know better," Moore said. "Is he desperate to keep his job in the caucus? I don't know."

The 'veto garage'

Jackson also hinted at an impending legal challenge against how House Republicans scheduled the veto override.

In a statement following Moore's press conference Monday afternoon, Lewis said Jackson's legal threat was another example of the Democrats "Sue ‘Til Blue efforts."

"The Democratic Minority Leader is trying to keep this story relevant by orchestrating a publicity stunt during a slow legislative news week with the goal of revising his previous statements," Lewis said in the statement. "I don’t need to change the narrative or revise any statements: I stand by my previous remarks.”

The state constitution doesn’t say how long lawmakers can hold onto vetoes before they have to hold an override vote. North Carolina’s governors got veto power in 2000. For the first few years, when bills were vetoed, they were generally reconsidered within a few days.

However, that changed under then-House Speaker Thom Tillis in 2011.

Then-Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, had vetoed quite a few GOP bills, and House Republicans did not have a veto-proof majority – much like today. Tillis came up with what he called “the veto garage” – the practice of holding vetoes indefinitely until absences or political deal-making would allow a successful override.

House rules require Republican leaders to put the override on the calendar at least 24 hours in advance. However, Jackson said, the override sat on the calendar for "60-plus days" before it was called.

He said that may violate public notice laws.