Friday, June 17, 2011

Late nights, short tempers

Tempers are fraying and patience is wearing at the General Assembly as lawmakers finish their third consecutive week of marathon sessions and late nights.

When House Speaker Thom Tillis tried to introduce a so-called supplemental calendar of bills at around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, GOP Rep. Edgar Starnes of Hickory stood up and objected. Other Republicans quietly cheered as Tillis gave in and adjourned the session at midnight.

"Thom said this would not be the pace if we would have to go through if he became speaker, I reminded him of that," Starnes said this morning. "It's insanity when you start trying to go to the middle of the night trying to pass legislation. There was no way we could have finished that calendar before 5 a.m."

Late-night sessions started two weeks ago with the budget and override of Gov. Bev Perdue's veto. They continued last week with crossover. And they've continued this week. Bills fly from one chamber to the other with major or minor adjustments. Committee meetings are hastily called. Members never know how long that day's or night's session will last.

Republican Rep. Ric Killian of Charlotte said other members are concerned about the pace.

"We have maintained a very, very aggressive pace," he said, "and it's taking its toll on the members."

Another veteran Republican agreed. "You're tired, you can't focus, half the time members don't know what's going on," said the lawmaker, who didn't want to be identified.

Tillis has said he's trying to stick to a promise to adjourn early. Spokesman Jordan Shaw acknowledged "it's been a breakneck three weeks."

"We're trying to be efficient," he said. "We've got to remember we're human."

UPDATE: Tillis said he and other leaders had already decided to end Thursday night's session when Starnes stood up. He defended the push to get things done, and get out.

"The deadline is driven more by our judgment that most of these matters have been fully debated in committee," he said. "Every day we're here is a day people are away from their jobs at a cost (to the state) of $40,000 a day or $1 million a month."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Perdue, McCrory dig for dollars in Charlotte

The two likely opponents in next years gubernatorial race are raising money in Charlotte this week.

Democrat Bev Perdue held a Monday night fundraiser at the home of Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. Sponsors included investor Mark Erwin, former textile exec Crandall Bowles and Charlotte Chamber Chairman Pat Rodgers.

Republican Pat McCrory, meanwhile, will attend a Thursday night fundraiser at the home of Bank of America executive Cathy Bessant. Guests were to include House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate GOP Leader Phil Berger.

Given this week's rush to adjournment in Raleigh, neither is likely to attend.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Tillis & Berger stump for 'presumed' gubernatorial candidate

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate GOP leader Phil Berger will take a break from the General Assembly this month to raise money for former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

The two are scheduled to appear at a June 16 fundraiser for McCrory in Charlotte. The two have lent their names to similar events in Raleigh and Winston-Salem and are scheduled at a McCrory event tonight in Wilmington.

McCrory, who lost the governor's race to Democrat Bev Perdue in 2008, has been itching for a rematch ever since. He and the legislative leaders are mutually supportive. This week he praised the Republican budget after weighing in on it in private.

The current Senate version, unlike the first, retains money for the Charlotte light rail that McCrory has long championed.

Jack Hawke, McCrory's general consultant, said the Charlotte event could raise $200,000 for the still unannounced campaign. And so far, the former Charlotte mayor is the only Republican seriously mentioned as a candidate.

"Everywhere he goes he is kind of a presumed candidate," Hawke said.