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As NC General Assembly session begins, Republicans take aim at Gov. Cooper's vetoes

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore takes a question from a reporter in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, as the Court heard arguments on a new elections case that could dramatically alter voting in 2024 and beyond.
Andrew Harnik
/
AP
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, speaks to reporters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 7, 2022.

The North Carolina General Assembly formally opened its 2023 session Wednesday with mostly ceremonial observances, like naming chamber leaders.

But House Republicans stirred up partisan controversy by adopting a rule that could make it easier to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The primary focus of this long session is hammering out a two-year spending plan. For Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, a top priority is lowering taxes for North Carolina residents and businesses.

"I don't think there's any question that the voters of North Carolina have clearly said they want the type of pro-business, less tax, less regulation policy that we have pursued," Berger said.

Berger added that he'd like to see the personal income tax rate lowered from 3% to 2.5%.

In addition to the budget, Berger says discussions could veer into other hot-button issues like abortion, currently banned by North Carolina law after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Berger says that with exceptions for cases involving rape and incest, he thinks abortions should be restricted to the first trimester, or 12 weeks.

"[But beyond that,] I think the state has an ability and, I think quite frankly, has an obligation to look to protect the life of the unborn fetus," Berger said.

House Speaker Tim Moore says members of his GOP majority would support legislation along the lines laid out by Berger.

Moore oversees a simple GOP-majority in the House, where Republicans are just one seat shy of a numerical veto-proof majority in the 120-seat chamber.

"I would call it a 'governing super-majority.' We do have a number of Democrats who have indicated they're going to be willing vote with us," Moore said.

An override needs a vote by three-fifths of those present.

But Wednesday, House Republicans adopted a rule change that would allow the GOP to hold a vote on overriding a veto without prior notice. House Democratic Leader Robert Reives told reporters that if Moore was so confident he had a "governing majority" the rule change wouldn't be necessary.

"We got 10.8 million people that we're representing," Reives said. "They deserve proper representation, they deserve not to have laws made that end up being gamesmanship."

But Moore downplayed the significance of the rule change and insisted Democrats can trust him.

Gov. Cooper issued a statement calling the rule change deceptive and said it "slaps Democracy in the face."

"Critical issues like women's health, gun safety and voting rights are on the line, and Republican House leaders need to keep things above board and offer at least 24 hours notice before veto override votes as Senator Berger has done in the Senate," Cooper said. "It’s a shame that House Republican leaders believe they can only override a veto through deception, surprise and trickery.”

Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC.
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