By Outer Banks Voice on January 5, 2012
The General Assembly approved early Thursday an override of Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a bill that eliminates payroll deduction as a way for teachers to pay their dues to the North Carolina Association of Educators.
Governor Perdue and Democrats in the Legislature decried the move by the Republican-controlled leadership of the House, contending the way it was done was “unconstitutional” and “unethical”.
“The Republicans in the General Assembly didn’t have the votes to get what they wanted legally,” Perdue said in a written statement issued following the vote.
“So, in the dark of night, they engaged in an unprecedented, unconstitutional power grab,” Perdue said. “I am saddened for the people of North Carolina that the Republicans abused their power and chose this destructive path.”
Lawmakers were called back to Raleigh for a special session Wednesday to consider an override of Perdue’s veto of a bill that would have repealed the Racial Justice Act.
Several members were unable to attend the special session, including Rep. Larry Womble of Winston-Salem, who wrote the Racial Justice Act bill and is still in the hospital recovering from a car crash, and Rep. Tim Spear of Creswell, who had an excused absence because of previously scheduled travel plans.
The law, passed in 2009, gives convicted death row inmates the opportunity to ask a judge to change their sentence to life in prison without parole if the inmate can prove racial bias was used in their sentencing.
The Senate approved the override, but the House did not have enough votes to do so.
The chambers then adjourned the special session late Wednesday, but the House scheduled another special override session to start just after midnight Thursday.
It was thought the House would consider a bill that would allow the search for natural gas in the central part of the state using a controversial method called “fracking,” and possibly another that would require voters to show identification before at the election polls before receiving a ballot.
Both bills were passed by the Legislature and vetoed by Perdue in 2011.
Instead, the House leadership took up a bill that was viewed by Democrats as the G.O.P.’s retaliation against the North Carolina Association of Educators for lobbying against the budget passed in the summer that made significant cuts in education.
The Senate had already voted to override the veto in July 2011, a month after it was vetoed by Perdue.
House Speaker Thom Tillis made comments about the bill in the summer that were inadvertently broadcast to the General Assembly press corp, which supported the argument by Democrats that the bill was revenge against the N.C.A.E.
Democrats said during a brief floor debate that Republicans were trying to take advantage of several absences of their members, while Republicans countered the bill had been openly discussed and the chamber’s rules allowed for the vote.
“I’ve made it very clear from the beginning that unfinished business will be taken up when we have the opportunity to override the vetoes,” Tillis said.
Democrats in both chambers, joined by state party chairman David Parker, spoke at a news conference following the session, saying the last-minute special session was both “unconstitutional” and “unethical”.
A committee was formed, which includes Spear, to review the Racial Justice Act in an attempt to resolve issues between the two sides.
CORRECTION – At the time of the writing of this story, the reason for Rep. Spear’s absence from the special session was not immediately clear. Spear had informed the Office of the House Clerk well in advance of the special session that he would be unable to attend because of previously scheduled travel plans.