For the fourth time in the past week, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore skipped a veto override vote Tuesday on Senate Bill 2, which would exempt magistrates from performing marriages if they have a religious objection.
House Rules Chairman David Lewis, a Dunn Republican, said the decision on when to take the vote will be made by Moore alone.
“When he would call that for a vote, I just don’t know,” Lewis said after Tuesday’s session. “Like many, I’m ready to resolve it one way or another.”
Lewis said the delay is likely the result of legislators being absent. “I know that there were a couple members on both sides of the issue who were absent,” he said. “I don’t think it was ever even considered to be done today.”
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According to vote records from Tuesday’s session, five legislators had excused absences. Four were Republicans who’d previously voted for Senate Bill 2: Reps. Julia Howard, Brian Brown, Rayne Brown and Jacqueline Shaffer. Only one Democrat was missing: Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County.
The delays have fueled speculation that Moore is using the “veto garage” approach employed by former Speaker Thom Tillis. Tillis sometimes held on to a veto for months until the right mix of legislators was present to ensure a three-fifths majority vote and a successful override.
Asked if the veto garage is in effect on Senate Bill 2, Lewis said “I think the speaker calls it a veto opportunity zone. Garage had such a negative connotation.”
Lewis dismissed an informal survey released Monday by Buncombe County’s register of deeds that indicated 51 of the state’s 100 registers opposed the legislation. Some have said the bill would force registers in smaller counties to be available 40 hours a week to issue marriage licenses if their employees sought the exemption.
“I think some individual register of deeds picking 54 out of 100 registers of deeds where he probably already knows how they feel – I don’t think that carries much weight,” he said. “I think that the members talked to their register of deeds back home, and those are the people that matter.”
Senate Bill 2 will appear again on the House calendar Wednesday, but that doesn’t guarantee a vote will happen.