A leading Republican state senator issued an apology Tuesday for his remarks skewering Gov. Pat McCrory, first lady Ann McCrory and lawmakers in a private meeting about legislation to regulate puppy mills.
The statement from Sen. Bill Rabon, the Finance Committee co-chairman, came a day after media outlets published leaked transcripts and recordings of a Jan. 16 meeting with constituents in which Rabon used profane language and accused the McCrory administration of violating lobbying laws.
Rabon called the McCrorys, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Democratic House leader Larry Hall to apologize Tuesday. While I spoke out of frustration in the heat of the moment, it does not excuse what I said or how I said it, Rabon said in a statement released by Senate leader Phil Bergers office. My comments were both inappropriate and offensive, and I am sincerely sorry.
Rabon, a Southport veterinarian, qualified his statement, saying that he was led to believe (the meeting) was an off-the-record conversation about the prospects for a puppy mill bill in the upcoming legislative session.
The animal welfare advocates met with Rabon to push House Bill 930, which the House approved in May but which stalled in the Senate. The measure a priority for the McCrorys would create standards of care for large commercial dog breeders.
Rabon raised his voice in the meeting, called the House lawmakers an expletive and accused McCrory of a flagrant violation of power for trying to bully the bill through the legislature.
Rabon said he wanted to push a tougher bill in 2015, but the legislations advocates said similar measures had not passed.
Through a spokeswoman, Berger, the Senate president pro tem, declined to comment on Rabons language. It would create a chilling effect on the ability of legislators to have candid and honest dialogues with their constituents, said Shelly Carver, the spokeswoman.
N.C. Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope said he was happy to hear that Sen. Rabon did the right thing and apologized.
Democrats used the incident to question Republicans ability to govern. Unfortunately for Governor McCrory and legislative Republicans, even work on a bill about the humane treatment of animals devolves into a contest to see whos top dog, spokesman Micah Beasley said in a statement. At every level, its increasingly clear that North Carolinians, and even their pets, deserve better than this.
The leaked tape led Senate leaders on Monday to declare the puppy mill legislation dead for the 2014 session, calling the advocates move extortion. But as Rabon made clear in the meeting, the bill was not going to get considered.
Animal welfare advocates continued to press their case Tuesday. I think that differences between a single state senator and his constituents should not prevent a bipartisan animal protection bill which protects thousands of North Carolinas dogs and puppies from passing, said Kimberley Alboum, the state director for the Humane Society.
In his statement, Rabon re-iterated his commitment to the issue, though he didnt speak to the bill. As a veterinarian, he said, my lifes work has been caring for pets and helping them lead happy, healthy lives. I will continue to work to protect the welfare of dogs and make sure they are treated humanely.