Lawmakers in Raleigh Monday overrode all three of Governor Bev Perdue's recent vetoes. The bills that will now become law include measures legalizing the gas drilling method known as "fracking," and one that limits the Racial Justice Act. That's the law that allows death row prisoners to appeal their sentences using statistical evidence to show discrimination. And finally, lawmakers overrode Perdue's veto of the $20.2 billion budget. Michael Bitzer is a professor of political science at Catawba College and is also the writer of WFAE's political blog "The Party Line."
Terry: So what do these vetoes say about the power and influence of Governor Bev Perdue right now?
Bitzer: Well I think it only confirms her lame duck status, having decided not to run for re-election. Governor Perdue really didn't having anything as a kind of carrot or even stick to offer to the Republicans to reverse themselves on things like the budget, the Racial Justice Act so I think with her approval ratings as low as they are, it's not really a surprise. I think she's just going to go quietly into that good night, and Walter Dalton is going to hope that she doesn't do anything else to upset [people.] She is very unpopular and it shows with these veto overrides.
Terry: Now the Republicans were not able to complete these overrides on their own. How were Republicans in both chambers able to get enough support to override these vetoes?
Bitzer: The key chamber was the House because they needed at least 4 to 5 Democrats siding with them. And they were able to convince some conservative Democrats, who were probably going to face a pretty tough re-election bid this fall, to side with them on some of the issues. Unfortunately, one of the Democrats on the override was Becky Carney of Charlotte, who mistakenly punched the wrong button when she was voting on the Racial Justice fracking veto. In legislatures, each political party is not homogeneous. They often times need some folks from the other side. And they were able apparently to cut some deals to get the override vetoes.
Terry: Going back to Becky Carney for a second and her mistaken vote why was she not allowed to change her vote? Why are no mulligans allowed in the statehouse?
Bitzer: One of the House rules - 24C - says that a member cannot change their vote if it would effect the outcome. That has been waived in past votes apparently in the North Carolina statehouse. But Republicans saw the chance, they weren't sure if they were going to have enough votes. And that one mistaken vote gave them the number of votes they needed. The House Republican leader Paul Stam pulled a parliamentary procedure move that basically solidified the vote. It's unfortunate, but these things tend to happen and it's only going to cause I think greater tension among the parties in Raleigh.
Terry: Have you every seen anything like this before, the mistaken vote being the one that pushes the override of the veto to go through?
Bitzer: It is so rare, but like everybody who's having to work a very full day until 11 o'clock at night, unfortunately mistakes happen. We're all human and these kinds of things happen, and apparently Representative Carney was just sick to her stomach about it. But I think it creates even more tension between the Democrats and Republicans. And things are getting even more polarized I'm afraid.