Long List of Rules Broken When Lawmakers Pushed Lottery Through
By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
September 16, 2019
If you plan to cry foul, point fingers and insist that you’ve been wronged, you’d best find some moral high-ground to do it from. That wasn’t the case last week when House Democrats pitched a fit.
“The Democrats’ outrage over the alleged surprise vote overriding Governor Roy Cooper’s veto on the budget doesn’t ring with any moral authority,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, in a statement to the press following the brouhaha.
“I remember quite well the deceit, the shenanigans employed by Democrats when they were in control of both chambers of the General Assembly and passed a state-operated lottery. The negative impact of that vote, the damage it has done to the poor and the weakest among us lives on to this very day.”
The controversy last week stemmed from Cooper’s June 28 veto of the budget on the grounds that it failed to fund Medicaid expansion, did not give high enough teacher raises and included corporate tax cuts. Having lost their supermajority in the House last year, Republicans could not override the veto unless they could take a vote when a significant number of Democrats were absent from the House floor. That’s what happened on Sept. 11.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) saw the imbalance and called for the vote, which wound up 55-9 in favor of the override. (The measure will still have to be approved by the Senate.)
Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) yelled at Moore from the House floor, calling the move a tragedy and a “travesty of the process.” And Cooper called a press conference to accuse Republicans of misleading Democrats into believing no vote would be taken on Wednesday.
But audio from Tuesday’s floor session includes House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett) saying recorded votes would occur Wednesday. And Moore had repeatedly stated he would call for an override vote given the opportunity.
“Democrats should have seen this coming, given that the House budget override vote has been on the daily floor calendar since early July,” reported the Hendersonville Times-News in an editorial that labeled the GOP move “sneaky” but also blamed Democrats’ inattention for what it called a “sorry episode.”
The news outlet correctly reported that there was nothing in the chamber rules to prevent what happened on Sept. 11.
“That was certainly not the case with the lottery vote,” Creech said. “The impact of the current budget bill will be fleeting in comparison.”
He was not the only one remembering how Democrats circumvented the law to approve a state lottery.
“It might be a good time of year to remind people how we got the lottery — a scam from its conception and birth,” former Rep. Paul Stam, who served eight terms in the House, told the media, sharing a document outlining “8 Little Rules The House Had to Break to Pass a Lottery.”
Stam, an attorney from Wake County, and the former House Speaker pro-tem, and someone who has taught parliamentary procedure in the U.S. and abroad, pointed out that in their haste to bring in the lottery in 2005, Democrats sidestepped the state Constitution, which requires three readings on three separate days for revenue bills with the “yeas” and “nays’ on third reading entered into the journal. House leadership at the time refused to recognize members calling for the votes to be entered. House Rules also require the third reading on bills to be on a different day and for select committees to reflect the partisan membership of the House, which was 63-57 favoring the Democrats. Stam said the 16-member Lottery Select Committee included 12 Democrats and 15 members who were pro-lottery. He said Democrat House leaders also broke rules by including in the conference report material that was not in either the House or Senate version of the bill, by refusing to recognize points of order and by closing debate without a vote of the House.
Creech said the long list of rules broken as lawmakers pushed through the lottery bill in 2005 was more egregious than the current quick vote that capitalized on some legislators’ absences, and he said that power grabs happen no matter who is in the majority.
“No political party has the moral high-ground here,” he said. “It’s the way the process often works, and it’s always worse when your side is somehow the victim.”