Under the Dome

Democrats’ objections briefly halt NC House action

House Democratic Leader Larry Hall, right, briefly clashed with House Speaker Tim Moore Tuesday after Moore tried to add bills that weren’t on the published calendar.
House Democratic Leader Larry Hall, right, briefly clashed with House Speaker Tim Moore Tuesday after Moore tried to add bills that weren’t on the published calendar. clowenst@newsobserver.com

Voting on bills that weren’t on the published calendar has become a common practice in the N.C. House this session.

Adding bills to the calendar – sometimes hours after they were heard in committee – faced backlash from Democrats during Tuesday’s session.

While the published agenda was empty for Tuesday, Speaker Tim Moore sought to add several bills as the session began – some controversial, some not. Democrats objected to each one.

The practice of last-minute calendar additions has drawn criticism that it doesn’t give legislators enough time to review bills before voting, and that the public doesn’t receive advance notice of a vote.

With the Democratic objections, Moore faced a choice: Postpone the bills until Wednesday or hold votes on whether to add each bill. The situation briefly brought the House to a halt as Moore talked privately with House Democratic Leader Larry Hall of Durham.

When the session resumed, Hall agreed to withdraw some of the objections, while Moore moved several of the bills – including controversial abortion legislation – to Wednesday’s calendar.

Hall said afterward that House rules require bills coming out of committee to be calendared for the following day’s session. Adding them without advance public notice isn’t good for transparency, he added.

Among the bills that did get a vote Tuesday:

Possum drop: The House signed off on the Senate’s tweaks to a bill designed to allow a New Year’s Eve tradition to continue in Clay County. The annual Possum Drop – in which an animal is lowered in a cage before cheering crowds – would go forward under legislation that suspends all wildlife laws pertaining to opossums for five days each year. The 92-23 vote came despite objections from Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, would said the bill would make it legal to “skin (an opossum) alive, kill it, torture it, maim it, whatever.” The bill heads next to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

Sunday hunting: The House voted 110-5 not to concur with Senate changes to a bill that would allow hunting on Sundays. The Senate had moved to allow hunting only on Sunday afternoons, once church services are finished. Members of both chambers will now form a conference committee to hash out the differences.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis contributed to this report.

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