North Carolina lawmakers took a break from session this week as this year's long session officially made its way into the fall. While legislators may have been away from Raleigh this week, the building was still buzzing as House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) challenged House Republican leadership to participate in a polygraph test to prove whether or not leadership was deceitful in their actions during the surprise vote to override the Governor's budget bill veto.
The lie detector test request comes following the surprise motion for an override vote held during an 8:30AM House session earlier this month. The HB 966: 2019 Appropriations Act veto was overridden in a 55 - 9 vote. 55 Republicans were on the floor at the time of the vote along with 12 Democrats, giving the body just over the 60 members needed for a quorum that is required for any votes to be taken.
Since the vote, Democrats have consistently stated that they were told that no votes would be taken during the morning session. Republican leadership has argued that the chair never explicitly stated the morning session would not have votes, that it is members' responsibility to be in their seats any time the House is in session. For a full recap of what happened during the veto override vote, the MWC teams breaks it down here.
Rep. Jackson provided the results from a polygraph test he took himself as proof that he was told the House's morning session would be a no vote session. Rep. Jackson asked House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), and Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guildford) to join him in taking a polygraph test in an attempt to settle the debate of who knew what once and for all.
Members of the North Carolina General Assembly will be back to reconvene on Monday, September 30th to continue with floor votes and committee meetings.
While a number of major bills from this session seem to have stalled in moving through the legislative process, several still have hope of making it out alive and becoming law. Last week, SB 553: Regulatory Reform Act of 2019 joined eight other bills vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper, becoming the ninth this session to be sent back to the legislature. In the Governor's veto statement, Gov. Cooper cited provisions that have the potential to threaten public health and safety as reason for the veto. The statement points to a provision that would allow trash receptacles in exit corridors, which the Governor argues creates a fire safety risk, as well as language that could allow septic system permits to be issued to systems that do not comply with state septic system rules. Because the bill makes changes to a number of other state and local government regulations, and due to the bipartisan support from members in both the House and the Senate, many are not considering the bill dead just yet. Once back in session, it may be possible for the Senate to pull together the numbers needed for an override vote.
SB 315: North Carolina Farm Act of 2019 stayed in the spotlight for several weeks earlier in the session but has been without official action for a month. A compromise version of the bill is still being hashed out to reconcile the stark differences between the House and the Senate versions of the bill. During a meeting earlier in the week, the NC Industrial Hemp Commission discussed the future of the Commission and tried to plan for continued operations, but without knowing what the Farm Act will ultimately say, much of the discussions remain speculative. Currently, the Commission is operating under temporary rules as the state was originally testing out how the hemp industry could operate here in the state. The Commission needs to know if it will still be in operation if and when SB 315 is passed in order to establish permanent rules for the next group of commissioners.
Over in the House, the Republican-sponsored Medicaid expansion compromise proposal, HB 655: NC Health Care for Working Families, still hangs in the balance after facing a number of amendments during a House Health Committee meeting shortly before the break. Bill sponsors and committee chairs have pledged to work with all House members on additional changes they would like to see before bringing the bill to the floor for a vote. As members make their way back to Raleigh next week, it is possible some of this stalled legislation will start to move once again.
As members return from the break, House lawmakers will soon have a new colleague join them. The Pitt County Republican Party Executive Committee announced this week that they would be selecting Dr. Perrin Jones to fill the vacant 9th House District seat. Jones is originally from Charlotte and currently lives in Greenville where he has worked as an anesthesiologist with East Carolina Anesthesia Associates since 2003. Jones graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before attending the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University. Jones also previously served as the president of the North Carolina Society of Anesthesiologists. Dr. Perrin Jones will fill the state House seat left vacant after Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy was elected to fill the U.S. House of Representatives seat of the late Walter B. Jones through special election earlier this month.
A new member will also soon be joining Senate lawmakers as the Mecklenburg County Republican Party Executive Committee announced Thursday night that they would be selecting Rob Bryan to fill the District 39 state Senate seat. Bryan is a former two-term state representative and previous chair of the Mecklenburg Republican Party. Currently, Bryan serves on the UNC Board of Governors and runs a consulting company after stepping down from his previous role as chief development officer for Cardinal Innovations health care earlier this year. Rob Bryan will fill the state Senate seat left vacant after Congressman Dan Bishop was elected through special election to fill the U.S. House of Representatives seat that has been vacant since a ballot fraud scandal scratched the results of the 2018 election.
Voters in 38 municipalities across North Carolina will head to the polls on Tuesday, October 8 to cast their ballot for city and town council members and their mayors. The city of Raleigh is among those that will soon elect a new mayor and seven city council members. In Raleigh, Mayoral and At-Large candidates are voted on by all voters in the city of Raleigh while district council members are elected by residents of their respective areas.
Raleigh voters will elect two of the candidates running for the At-Large City Council seat out of six candidates: James Bledsoe, an IT Technician for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Jonathan Melton, a divorce attorney, Portia Rochelle, founding pastor of "Word for Transformation Church and Outreach Center," Carlie Allison Spencer, current Campbell Law School student, Russ Stephenson, an architect and an incumbent, and Nicole Stewart, a local philanthropist and an incumbent.
Three candidates are running for the District A city council seat: hotel accountant Joshua Bradley, lawyer for the state of North Carolina Patrick Buffkin, and founder of a software startup company Sam Hershey. Computer scientist and incumbent, David Cox, and former chairman of the Wake County Democratic party and insurance agent, Brian Fitzsimmons, are running for the District B seat. District C candidates include Shelia Alamin-Khasoggi who previously worked at the Wake County Sheriff's Department, Corey Branch, an Associate Director of Technology for AT&T and the incumbent, Wanda Hunter, a finance manger for Blueprint North Carolina, and Ricky Scott, a community activist. Running in District D is Brittany Bryan, regional manager for EBSCO, Kay Crowder who previously worked in marketing for an Edward Jones office and the incumbent, Saige Martin who worked as a consultant on the Clinton Campaign before becoming a nonprofit consultant, and April Parker, Policy and Development Coordinator for Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform. Finally, District E has two candidates in the running: David Knight, Director of North Carolina's Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, and Stef Mendell, former international communications executive for GlaxoSmithKline and the incumbent.
Raleigh's mayoral contest became the center of the city's election spotlight earlier in the year when current Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane announced that she would not be seeking another term. Running with the hopes of filling this mayoral seat are:
- Mary-Ann Baldwin, former city council at-large member for 10 years (5 terms) and city representative for GoTriangle
- Zainab Baloch, community activist, Numbers and Operations Specialist at a financial services company, and former city council candidate
- Charles Francis, who also ran two years ago against Mayor McFarlane, attorney, and former Vice Chair of both the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association and Wake County Democratic Party
- George Knott, musician and political novice
- Caroline Sullivan, a former Wake County Commissioner and NC Business Committee for Education Senior Adviser whose recent Manhattan fundraiser featured special guest former secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
- Justin Sutton, State of North Carolina Procurement Attorney
At the forefront of the 2019 mayoral race are issues regarding affordable housing as new apartment buildings pop up all over the city, diversifying transit options, growing and developing the city sustainably, and creating jobs for residents through small business opportunities, helping to ensure equal access to all who want to take advantage of what Raleigh has to offer.
The polls will be open from 6:30AM until 7:30PM on Tuesday, October 8. For more information about any of the upcoming municipal elections across North Carolina, visit the North Carolina State Board of Elections information page here.