Republican leaders of North Carolina’s legislature acted unethically – if not unconstitutionally – in the middle of the night last night.
Aside from whether it’s good policy to single out one organization for different treatment from all others, the dark-of-night vote was exactly the kind of disregard for transparency that fuels voters' disgust with politicians.
Gov. Bev Perdue called legislators back into session to consider her veto of a bill gutting the Racial Justice Act. Article III, Section 5 of the N.C. Constitution spells out that at such a session, “the General Assembly may only consider such bills as were returned by the Governor to that reconvened session for reconsideration.”
In other words, the legislature could only vote on Perdue’s veto of Senate Bill 9, the bill undoing the Racial Justice Act. Republicans didn’t have the votes to override that veto, though. So they adjourned Perdue’s veto session and called for another extra session to start at 12:45 this morning. At 1:12 a.m., they voted on the teachers’ dues veto.
If that’s not unconstitutional, it’s certainly an affront to the citizens of North Carolina, who don’t need the public’s business being done in the dead of night with no notice.
Tillis defended the vote. “Some people probably don’t like the fact we’re here tonight. But the fact of the matter is we got it done, we’re out of here, we’re saving money and going back home,” WRAL reported.
He argued that the public should have known Republicans could force votes at 1 a.m. But unless you’re tracking legislative doings at that hour, it’s not clear how the public could have known. The Racial Justice Act bill was the only one on the agenda.
The whole affair should be “a learning experience,” Tillis said.
It’s a learning experience, all right. The voters of North Carolina have learned a lot about how underhanded this particular crop of legislative leaders can be, and that they scoff at the notion of transparency.
-- Taylor Batten