The 2019 session of the North Carolina General Assembly hasn’t lacked surprises, and President Pro Tem of the state Senate Phil Berger made it clear in his press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 1, that he wasn’t looking for any more.
Berger said that there would be no budget vote in the Senate this week and that the Senate was going to adjourn on Oct. 31 whether a budget had been passed or not. He also noted that Senate rules required members to have at least 24 hours notice before a vote on the budget and he planned to abide by those rules.
The current situation is that the House voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto when most of the Democrats were out of the House chamber and didn’t vote. So if the Senate overrides the veto then the budget becomes law, but Berger didn’t sound like he was in any hurry to take that vote. He noted that the state budget had passed the Senate twice with enough bipartisan votes to override the governor’s veto. Berger said that several Democratic senators had told him they wanted to vote for the budget but were concerned about political backlash. Berger also said that he had been told that Cooper had gone so far as to introduce senators to their future primary opponent if they voted to override his veto.
Because of that, Berger said it was possible the Senate would come back into session after the filing period for the 2020 election had ended and vote on the budget. By then the Democrats would know whether Cooper had recruited a primary opponent for them or not.
He said that in the Senate, plenty of notice would be given before the veto override vote and senators could then choose to show up and vote or not.
Republicans only need one Democratic vote to override Cooper’s veto if every senator shows up and votes. The other option, one that was used by the Democrats to get the state lottery passed, is to have a couple of Democratic senators not show up at all because the state constitution says that to override a veto takes 60 percent of those present and voting.
Berger also said that the Senate would continue to pass the mini-budget bills for parts of the budget on which there was agreement between the two parties.