Dome: Legislators barely outnumber protesters at mini-session

rchristensen@newsobserver.comApril 24, 2012 

The number of lawmakers who attended Monday’s legislative mini-session barely outnumbered the protesters who came to chant slogans and decry the Republican agenda.

The roughly 30 demonstrators rallied outside about an assortment of issues, from fracking to high college tuition, before marching inside to meet with House Speaker Thom Tillis – repeating a scene from February when Capitol Police cited an obscure rule invoked by Tillis’ staff to remove visitors from the second floor of the statehouse. Tillis did not attend the legislative session. His staff promised demonstrators a meeting within a month.

“He won’t even come to his own special session,” said Gerrick Brenner, who leads Progress NC, a liberal advocacy group. “Just garbage. Just garbage.”

A spokesman said Tillis had meetings in his district. He previously asked lawmakers to not attend the session and to waive per diem payments to save money.

About 50 lawmakers did attend the session – mostly Democrats skeptical about the GOP’s pledge not to take votes – but the House took no action and adjourned until 9 a.m. Wednesday.

House Democratic leader Joe Hackney said they asked members to attend and held a caucus meeting. Those who did are expected to waive per diem payments, he said.

GOP leaders set the legislative mini-session in November in case it needed to adjust the redistricting plan winding its way through the court system.

It costs roughly $50,000 a day to hold a legislative session. It’s unclear how much this week’s three-day session will cost, given the low attendance and lawmakers’ waiving their pay.

Gingrich’s N.C. schedule

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich plans a heavy campaign schedule in North Carolina this week, puncturing talk that he was suspending his campaign here.

Gingrich, accompanied by his wife Callista for the first time here, plans to hit the Republican-rich Piedmont area of the state this week, as he campaigns for the May 8 primary. They are paying homage to several iconic Tar Heel figures – Billy Graham and Richard Petty. And as a big fan of zoos, Gingrich has also set a aside two hours to visit the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro.

The couple will tour the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte on Tuesday.

‘Monster’ freshmen?

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers charges that the freshman class of House Republicans had turned into a “monster” during intraparty fighting at weekly freshman meetings, according to a new book on the impact of the incoming class.

The freshmen drove Republicans into the majority during the 2010 midterm elections, but also caused substantial headaches for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other leaders, according to a Washington Post account of “Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” a new book by Robert Draper.

The infighting reached the point that the new representatives were shouting at each other during weekly meetings instead of exchanging ideas about how to bring conservative legislation to the floor, said Ellmers’ spokesman, Thomas Doheny.

“You’ve created a monster,” Ellmers warned House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, according to the Post account.

The Dunn Republican was among a group of freshman members who met several times with Draper. Ellmers has yet to read the book, said Doheny, but added the point of contention was over the most productive ways of getting everyone’s opinion heard, not over the conservative principles that unite the party.

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