RALEIGH, N.C. – Over two weeks ago, on September 13, Civitas Institute sent calendar requests to the 38 Democratic legislators that didn’t register a vote on the House budget veto override.
During the 8:30 AM session on September 11, House Speaker Tim Moore called for an override vote of Governor Cooper’s budget veto. As a result, House Bill 966 passed with a 55-9 vote.
Following this vote, a torrent of accusations and claims were leveled, leading to significant national media attention and fueling substantial misinformation. Outlets such as Washington Post, CBS News, and others mainstreamed the notion that many of the Democratic legislators were attending 9/11 commemoration ceremonies. Barring a release of these absent lawmakers’ calendars, there is no way to verify their attendance at such events.
Another noteworthy aspect of this story has received less coverage and scrutiny than it warrants. During the vote, Rep. Deb Butler (D-Brunswick), began an impassioned speech in which she chastised Republican legislators for calling a vote while her colleagues were, “…downstairs right now trying to redraw partisan-heavy maps.” This admission is extremely concerning because a recent court order requires all redistricting activities to occur in public view on the top floors of the Legislative Office Building, which doesn’t appear to have been occupied during that time.
As a result of this admission, which would acknowledge a violation of a court order, Civitas Institute filed 41 public records requests. To date, we have received no communications of any kind from legislators or their offices, aside from a brief response by Rep. Darren Jackson stating, “Without waiving any rights of privilege to my knowledge there was no meeting to do what you reference. House Democrats on finance meet at 8 am to prepare for the 9 am meeting.”
“Were the Democrats drawing maps? That’s what we’re trying to find out.” said Civitas Policy Director, Bob Luebke, “If the assertion is not true, it’s pretty easy to deny using calendars or meeting schedules. To date, however, we have not received a single response detailing any of the 38 legislators whereabouts. What would you think?”
Civitas Institute believes that constituent trust hinges upon government transparency. We are calling on the Democratic legislators missing from the chamber at the time of the vote to provide the public with assurance that they weren’t, in fact, violating court order. If any legislators, excepting Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Scotland), were at 9/11 commemoration ceremonies, they should take this opportunity to do so, thereby bolstering public trust in the narrative that was so ardently defended.
Civitas will continue to keep the public appraised of this ongoing request and will update as soon as we have received information from legislators as to their whereabouts during this critical vote.