Legislative “Long” Session isn’t over yet

Legislative Session
Photo by Daily Camera


November 8, 2019 12:47PM
Cash Michaels
Cash Michaels

As you read this, the NC House and Senate sessions, which began on Jan. 9th, have adjourned.

But that doesn’t mean the 2019 long session of the NC General Assembly is over. In fact, according to a joint resolution, legislators are expected back on Nov. 13th, reportedly to work on redrawing congressional redistricting maps, as ordered by a three-judge Wake Superior Court panel.

That is now creating a continuing hardship on Democratic state senators, particularly African American Senate lawmakers, who may have to jettison holiday plans with family.

“The sad thing is you can’t predict any of the times we’re going to be there such that we can plan for family stuff,” a Democratic senator opined. “My kids are grown, but I really feel bad for younger legislators who didn’t get a chance to spend their summer with their kids.”

“And now we’re approaching fall and winter holidays, and heck, we don’t know when we’re going to adjourn.”

Most people forget that the “short” session of the NC General Assembly did not adjourn for good until December 29th, 2018, and that’s because Republicans called one of several special sessions to deal with the four of six constitutional amendments that were passed in the midterm elections.

There is no hard and fast deadline for completing the maps, and yet, the December 2 filing for the March 2020 primaries is literally right around the corner, meaning that the court may have to push the primaries back some to accommodate the legislative redistricting and approval process. No one knows how long state lawmakers may take once they come back late next week.

“They don’t care,” a frustrated Democratic senator said of the Republican majority.

But once they do finish this year, the 2019 long session of the NC General Assembly will come to an end…right?

Wrong. State lawmakers have been told that they must come back Tuesday, January 14th to finish any “outstanding” business from this session.

In fact, among the reasons cited in the recent joint resolution to extend the 2019 regular session was “Bills returned by the Governor with his objections…solely for the purpose of considering overriding of the veto upon reconsideration of the bill.”

Democratic lawmakers who have spoken off-the-record are beyond frustrated with Republican leadership because the way it looks now, the long legislative session of 2019 actually won’t be completed until sometime in January 2020...maybe…all because the GOP is trying to figure out a way to trick enough weary Democratic senators to either be late, or absent so that Republicans can finally override Gov. Cooper’s veto of their budget proposal over the absence of Medicaid expansion, and ratify it into law.

Democrats maintain that’s exactly what happened in the state House they were led to believe that no vote would be taken on September 11th pertaining to the veto, and Republicans were able to override Cooper’s veto with a depleted number of Democratic House members present.

More than seven Democrats - the number needed to swing over and vote with Republicans for the veto override - were absent from the chambers then, creating a subsequent ruckus that actually made national news.

Now Senate Republicans only need one Senate Democrat to vote with them for the override, but Senate Dems have vowed that that is just not going to happen. Last Thursday on Oct. 31st - the day Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger [R- Rockingham] vowed would be adjournment day, state senators were called into session, and then Republicans recessed five times in hopes that at least one Democrat would fail to make it back to their seat in time for a call vote on the veto, but to the GOP’s dismay, no matter where they were, Senate Democrats made it back, standing firm not to hand Republicans another victory.

“It literally meant chasing down members,” one Senate Democrat said afterwards.

Senate Dems were warned that a vote could happen days earlier, but when it didn’t, they knew anything could happen before the Oct. 31st adjournment, and were ready.

Senate Pro tem Berger even floated the notion publicly that Gov. Cooper had threatened Senate Dems that if they didn’t hold tight, he would find primary opponents against them.

“That was a lie,” an angry, resentful Senate Democrat said of Berger’s apparent pressure tactic.