In the legislature down in Raleigh the crossover deadline was last week which means any bill that didn’t already pass in the state House or Senate is dead for the year. Unless some powerful Republican decides they really want a bill, then they strip the language out of a bill that did pass and replace it with the language for the new bill.
There are rules and then ways around every rule.
But the focus in Raleigh now is on the state budget. The House has passed a version which has gone to the Senate. Since both the House and the Senate have Republican majorities the two should be able to reach an agreement with a little pushing and shoving behind closed doors and a little shouting for the media, but it will all get done.
And that’s when the fun starts.
Rep. Jon Hardister said, “We’ll pass a budget and I’m certain [Gov. Roy] Cooper will veto it. Then it just comes down to if we can get enough votes to override it.”
Hardister is the House Majority Whip which means he’s in charge of counting votes for the Republicans, so he knows all the different methods used to get bills passed.
Hardister noted that they had to have seven Democrats vote with the Republicans to override the governor’s veto, if all the representatives were in attendance. Of course, to override a veto, it would also have to pass the Senate by a two thirds majority.
Hardister said, “It’s two thirds of those present and voting to override.”
If members aren’t there then the votes necessary to override a veto drops. Hardister pointed out that if the Republicans could get a couple of Democrats “to take a walk” which means they aren’t in the chamber when the vote takes place then they’d only need a couple of Democratic votes. The ones who take a walk wouldn’t be branded as voting for a Republican budget, and considering how “taking a walk” has been viewed in the past there doesn’t seem to be much voter backlash for a legislator having an emergency at home, a break down on the highway, or being deathly ill, even if that legislator has a miraculous recovery and is seen at a party later in the day.
So there are rules and ways around the rules.
Hardister said, “What the governor wants more than anything is Medicaid expansion and he wants blanket Medicaid expansion. I certainly don’t support a blanket expansion.”
He said, “Some Republicans are talking about a hybrid expansion with premiums, fees and work requirements.”
Hardister said he didn’t know if any hybrid Medicaid expansion models would have enough support to pass, but if one did then the governor would have to decide whether to compromise or stick to his guns.
Hardister said, “One thing we’ll need to do is talk to the Democrats and find out what is really important to their communities and see if we can get some buy in for the budget.”
The state won’t shut down if no budget is passed on June 30, what happens is the state keeps spending at the same levels as in the current budget. It would mean that the raises for teachers and other state employees wouldn’t go into effect, but also a lot of capital projects wouldn’t get funded until a budget is passed.
Hardister said, “One time funding can be very important to certain constituencies.” And he mentioned two in Guilford County.
The budget currently under consideration has $8.4 million for UNCG to plan a new library. Hardister said the total project cost was estimated to be over $80 million and 10 percent was what was usually allocated for planning and design. So for UNCG to get started on a much needed new library, it needs the funding in the new budget.
There is also $7.7 million in the budget for the new mental health facility for Guilford County. It’s about a $20 million project so $7.7 million is a big chunk of it.
Hardister said that although the state will continue to operate, there will be a lot of pressure from a multitude of constituencies to get the budget passed, so they’ll get the money allocated to them in the new budget whether its for employee raises or capital projects.
It could be a long summer in Raleigh, or not so long if people from both parties get together and work things out.