Barely two days after Christmas, legislators and legislative staff have returned to Raleigh for a session of the General Assembly. The reason for interrupting holiday festivities with loved ones? A time-sensitive veto override vote.
Although Cooper, a Democrat, waited until the 9th day of his 10 day window to veto HB1029, he indicated to the press last week that he opposed a provision of the bill dealing with confidentiality in campaign finance investigations. He said that he wanted the General Assembly to “fix” that part before he would sign it. Since bills cannot be changed once they go through the legislative process and end up on the governor’s desk, the governor likely wanted the General Assembly to remake the changes in the next legislative session.
The bill includes provisions for reorganization the State Board of Elections, making absentee ballot fraud more difficult, and requiring the Board of Elections to report to the General Assembly on absentee ballot fraud over the past five elections. Delaying implementation of HB1029 could make it more difficult to put measures in place to prevent the kind of voting fraud alleged to have happened in Bladen County over the past several elections in time for the 2020 election. The bill had strong bi-partisan support.
Cooper indicated that his second veto, SB469, was issued due to the “dangerous precedent” that municipal charter schools could set for “taxpayer-funded re-segregation.” The governor is wrong for a variety of reasons.
The legislature has 10 days to override the veto, which requires a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber. This means the override window was December 21st through the 31st – the entirety of the Christmas season.
Politically, the governor was probably hoping that many legislators would not be able to return to Raleigh for a Christmas session, thus preventing them from reaching the necessary three-fifths threshold to override the veto.
Republican Senators asked Cooper last week to issue all his vetoes at the same time, so that they could override them at the same time, and get them all done before Christmas. The Senators pointed out that having session the week of Christmas would cause legislators and staff to change their holiday travel plans and miss time with their families.
No matter what his motives, Cooper’s actions contain an obvious hypocrisy. By choosing to delay the veto, the governor knew that the General Assembly would have to come back into session to override the veto on an additional day of session.
Not so long ago, Democrats were decrying Republicans for calling special sessions. The North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP) issued a statement saying that August’s special session was “wasting $50,000 every day.” Prominent Democrat legislators also chimed in, taking to Twitter to bash Republicans for convening what they called a “Deception Session.”
To be fair, the NCDP statement acknowledged that “There are plenty of good reasons legislators could return to Raleigh,” and included a list a vague policy objectives (As a side note: those objectives were intentionally worded to sound good, but the real proposals behind them would be a disaster for North Carolina).
Looks like the NCDP needs to add another “good reason” to their list: helping Gov. Cooper score political points against Republican legislators.