Politics & Government

GOP wants Cooper to decide on bills this week — so folks don’t have to work next week

Senate Republicans are asking Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to not be a “grinch” by waiting to veto legislation that could force lawmakers to return to Raleigh during Christmas week to try to override his rejections.

In a news release Monday, Senate Republicans said Cooper should veto or sign the remaining bills on his desk now so that legislators can act on overriding them on Tuesday as opposed to next week. Lawmakers say a decision by Cooper on the bills now, as opposed to waiting for the up to 10 days allowed by state law, means “non-partisan General Assembly staff can make plans for the holidays with their families.”

There are several bills on Cooper’s desk that potentially could be vetoed. At least one group, the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system, has urged the governor to delay a veto in hopes that GOP lawmakers won’t override the decision.

“The hardworking non-partisan staff, member office staffs and reporters who cover the General Assembly don’t deserve to get caught up in Gov. Cooper’s political gamesmanship,” Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon, a Republican from Brunswick County, said in the news release. “Gov. Cooper already knows if he is going to veto any of the bills that we passed last week and he should do so as soon as possible so staff can make holiday plans without the specter of a Christmas week override vote hanging over their heads.”

But former state GOP legislator Charles Jeter, who’s now government relations coordinator for Charlotte Mecklenburg schools, said it’s lawmakers who are to blame for putting themselves in this situation of potentially needing to vote during Christmas week.

Charles Jeter
Charles Jeter

“The NCGA made the decision of the time of year to force these issues, not the Governor,” Jeter said in a message. “If they didn’t want to come back next week, they should’ve waited until next year. They chose this, not Cooper.”

Cooper’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

State lawmakers officially returned to Raleigh for this month’s special session to address issues such as drafting legislation based on the state constitutional amendments that were passed by voters in November.

Republican lawmakers are holding the special session now while they still hold large enough majorities to override Cooper’s vetoes. The situation will change in January when new Democratic lawmakers who won in November take office.

One of the bills passed last week would allow teachers in any municipal charter schools that are created by four Mecklenburg towns to join the state retirement and health plans. CMS leaders opposed the creation of the municipal charter schools and want the bill vetoed.

But another portion of the bill is backed by Wayne County Public Schools because it includes language that would allow them to not have to turn over a low-performing elementary school to the state’s Innovative School District.

Other bills on Cooper’s desk include legislation requiring primary elections to be held if a new election is ordered in the disputed North Carolina U.S. House District 9 race.

Senate Republicans said they’d want to take up any other vetoes on Tuesday at the same time they return to Raleigh to try to override Cooper’s rejection of the new voter ID law.

Senate Republicans complained that in June, Cooper waited until legislators had adjourned on a Friday night before delivering two vetoes after 9 p.m. to the private residence of the Senate Clerk. GOP lawmakers complained that Cooper had waited because the bills dealt with filings for races that opened Monday morning.

Jeter, the former lawmaker, said the GOP press release indicates to him that Senate Republicans aren’t sure they can get enough lawmakers to return to Raleigh next week to override any vetoes.

“That’s the downside of waiting until a lame-duck session late in December to pass legislation that is completely unrelated to the stated reason of the session... passing enabling legislation for the recently passed Constitutional Amendments,” Jeter said.

A spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger said lawmakers had announced ahead of time they were meeting in December to pass other legislation, such as changes to the State Board of Elections that were required by a three-judge panel to be made in December. But the bill CMS wants vetoed isn’t under a similar deadline.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.