The additional special session that began Wednesday afternoon caught Democrats by surprise, but plans for the session were in the works Monday – and that’s prompted a protest that the session is unconstitutional.
Rep. Darren Jackson, a Knightdale Democrat, filed a formal protest challenging the session Wednesday – and one by one, nearly every Democrat stood on the House floor to add their name to the protest. The protest is largely symbolic and won’t impact the session.
At issue is the state constitution’s provision for calling special legislative sessions. Instead of getting Gov. Pat McCrory to call the session, legislative leaders got three-fifths of the members of both chambers to petition for the session.
But Jackson points to language in the constitution that says legislative leaders “shall convene” the special session “upon receipt” of the legislators’ signatures.
While the special session was announced around noon Wednesday, the signatures from the House members were dated Monday. And the signatures from senators were dated Tuesday, Jackson said.
Jackson argues that the constitution doesn’t allow House Speaker Tim Moore and the Senate president, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, to wait a day or two before calling the session.
“The constitution is very clear,” he said. “Once they had three-fifths of the names, they had to do it.”
Moore told reporters that the final decision to hold the session was made Wednesday morning. But a document filed with the House clerk’s office shows he made the initial request for the session on Monday.
House Rules Chairman David Lewis, a Dunn Republican, disputes Jackson’s timeline of events.
“To the best of my knowledge, the speaker and the lieutenant governor received the required number sometime this morning,” he said.
Asked why special session actions couldn’t wait until the General Assembly’s regular session next month, Moore said “there are some matters that may be of timeliness.”
Jackson said the legality of the session could become part of a lawsuit if any laws passed this week are challenged in court.
“I think we’re going to be challenged,” he said, arguing that Republicans are “using hurricane relief as a reason to come back to Raleigh to do a lot of things because you lost an election by 10,000 votes.
“This is why people don’t trust us. This is why they hate us.”