Top NC House Democrat says Thom Tillis retaliated over opposition to new building rules

Posted by Lynn Bonner on July 15, 2014 

House Speaker Thom Tillis refused to release money that would have allowed House Democrats to hire a permanent staffer to help draft amendments and aid constituents, House Minority Leader Larry Hall said Tuesday.

Hall said the denial of a staff position was in retaliation for his vocal opposition to new rules for Legislative Building demonstrations.

Hall said Tillis' general counsel Ray Starling said Hall could not hire a chief of staff unless he apologized to other members of the legislative committee that sets rules for the building.

Tillis "has decided to de-fund the House Democratic Caucus," said Hall, a Durham Democrat. Money is in the budget for a staff member, Hall said. "We're being deprived the support to advocate their interests," he said.

Starling said Tuesday that he did not turn down Hall's request for a staff member, adding he would talk more about it later. Approached later, Starling directed questions to Tillis spokeswoman Anna Roberts. She said in an email they did not usually comment on personnel issues.

Subsequently, Tillis agreed to allow Hall to hire a staffer for one month, Hall said, but that person's term ended in June.

Traditionally, minority leaders have money for a chief of staff that handles research, questions and requests from other members.

Hall distributed salary charts to show the staff budget for his office at about $49,000 a year. In June 2009, the last full fiscal year that Democrats were in the majority, Rep. Paul Stam, who was then minority leader, had a staff with a total annual salary of about $118,000.

The annualized budget for Tillis' staff is about $882,000, according to Hall's calculations.

Hall also slammed House Republicans for using maneuvers to shut down debate on amendments. That's been done more this year than in all of 2001-2009, when Democrats ran the House.

According to his figures, Democrats made motions to table amendments 14 times and were successful 10 times, while Republicans made 51 attempts and were successful 49 times.

Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, said stifling debate "is a step away from a democratic system and toward something that nobody wants to see."

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