Tim Moore's power grab

Published January 19, 2023

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

Since 2011, and until last week, it has been the rule in the North Carolina House of Representatives that there must be at least a day’s notice before a vote on overriding legislation vetoed by the governor – two days if the bill originated in the House.
That rule was adopted in 2011 -- the same year Republicans initiated their now 12-year domination of both the state House and state Senate in the General Assembly. The provision was placed in the House rules at the behest of former Republican state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam.

Stam is no fair-weather partisan and at the time was the Republican Majority Leader in the House. Every representative present – including then Rules Committee co-chair and now Speaker Tim Moore – voted for it.

Since ascending to the speakership in 2015, Moore runs the House how he wants.

Under his leadership rules are a convenience and when convenient, made to be broken. Votes come when he wants – as was witnessed on Sept. 11, 2019. He suddenly brought up a vote to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget bill. The surprise early-morning vote came after GOP leaders assured Democrats there would be no roll-call votes and many tending to business in their districts – including attending memorial observances for the 9-11-2001 tragedy.
Only 9 of the 55 House Democrats were at the session, which they’d been assured was to be merely perfunctory, when the override vote came.

It is curious as to why Moore wants to stack the deck even more in his favor. After the 2022 election gave Republicans a near veto-proof majority in the House, Moore declared: I will tell you, for all intents and purposes, we have a governing supermajority. We have a handful of Democrats who work with us.”

The point of the rule is not to give any political party or state official any advantage or disadvantage. The point is to make sure citizens know what’s going on and can hold their elected representatives fully accountable.

Giving notice on important actions – whether hearings and votes on bills before legislative committees, debates and votes in the state House or Senate – makes sure the public has a way to track and hold their elected officials responsible for their actions.

Votes taken on a moment’s notice deny the kind of accountability that citizens deserve from their representatives. Whether a governor’s veto of legislation passed is upheld or overridden isn’t merely part of some game being played. It isn’t merely the business of Tim Moore, Senate Leader Phil Berger or the 168 other legislators they serve with.

It is the conduct of the public’s business. And it should be done in an open and honest manner. Citizens deserve a legislature where EVERY representative has the opportunity to meet their obligation to the people who elected them – to craft, debate and vote on policy matters in a fully informed way.

Moore’s effort to jettison the provision his fellow Republicans initiated in 2011 is a repudiation of the legacy that put him in power – and an affront to the representative government every North Carolina citizen expects.

The provision – House Rule 44.2 – should remain. Legislators act on behalf of those who elect them. It is not the other way around.

Legislation is no game, votes shouldn’t be manipulated.