The N.C. House Transportation Committee held a split voice vote on a controversial bill Monday, but chairman John Torbett rejected a fellow Republican’s request to hold a formal vote count.
The committee was voting on House Bill 660, which would allow the state’s commissioner of motor vehicles to make agreements with foreign countries to allow the use of foreign driver’s licenses in North Carolina. The bill was filed following a request from the government of Taiwan.
Legislative rules allow the chair presiding over the committee to hold voice votes – in which legislators call out “aye” votes in unison, and then “no” votes in unison. Individual committee members can call for a show of hands, which results in a specific vote count. If they don’t, the chair determines which side won the vote.
Torbett, a Gaston County Republican, announced that the bill had a majority of support to pass the committee. A reporter in the room heard a much louder group of “no” votes than “aye” votes.
Rep. George Cleveland, a Jacksonville Republican, immediately called for a formal vote count, but Torbett said the request came too late and moved on to the next bill.
Torbett defended his decision after the meeting. “It was like a gathering of angels shouting ‘aye,’” he told a reporter with a smile.
Cleveland opposed the bill, arguing that states don’t have authority to make agreements with foreign countries. “The validity of the state doing this, I think, is in violation of federal law,” he said.
Rep. James Boles, a Southern Pines Republican, said several other Southern states already have similar agreements with Taiwan. State law allows visitors from other states and countries to use their driver’s licenses here, but they must obtain a North Carolina license if they live here.
A representative of the Division of Motor Vehicles said the agency has “concerns” about the bill.
It now goes to the House floor, where individual votes will be counted.