Veto override on marriage bill postponed again

For the second day in a row, a veto override for a bill exempting magistrates from performing marriages appeared on the N.C. House calendar without any action.

Rules Chairman David Lewis, a Dunn Republican, said after Thursday’s session that House leaders are waiting until more legislators are present. He noted that a number of Republicans were absent from sessions this week.

He wouldn’t say when the vote will happen, only that “we hope to be able to deal with this in a reasonable amount of time.”

“I think we have to have a full caucus together to be able to discuss any of the issues” related to Senate Bill 2, Lewis said.

According to records of Thursday’s votes, only two Republicans were absent: Rep. Rob Bryan of Charlotte and Rep. Lee Zachary of Yadkinville. Both of them voted for the magistrates bill last week. Also absent: Rep. William Brisson, a Bladen County Democrat who often votes with Republicans on social issues.

Lewis also raised the possibility that the House might not try to override McCrory’s veto. “I think we will see the bill remain on the calendar until we take a vote or the speaker determines we’re not going to,” he said.

McCrory offered his own explanation for the delay in a news conference Thursday. “There’s a lot of arm-twisting going on across the street,” he said. “I would hope and I encourage that they follow the process that I think the Constitution clearly spells out – to do it within a reasonable period of time.”

But Rep. Jon Hardister, a Greensboro Republican who voted against Senate Bill 2, said he’s not under any pressure to change his mind. “I think my party respects my position on this issue,” he said Wednesday.

Lewis said some Republicans haven’t decided how they’ll vote on the override. “Frankly, some of our members are on the fence and are seeking legal counsel to ask certain questions,” he said. “I think they will get those answers and be able to make a vote based on their own conscience, their own heart.”

Among those undecided this week is Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who was absent from the first vote. He says he’s leaning toward a yes vote but likely won’t make up his mind until it’s time to vote. He added that he’s heard mixed opinions from constituents.

“Quite honestly, it’s split right down the middle,” Horn said. “That really puts the pressure on me to make a thoughtful, informed decision. … As I try to do all the time, I wait until the very last minute to make my final decision.”

The delays on the override vote are fueling speculation that Speaker Tim Moore might borrow a technique from former Speaker Thom Tillis: The “veto garage.”

Tillis sometimes parked vetoed bills for months before voting. Because an override requires a three-firth majority of legislators present, waiting until some House members are absent can affect the outcome. Asked about that approach earlier this week, Moore said he preferred to call it a “veto opportunity zone.”

McCrory blasted that approach in his remarks Thursday. “There used to be criticism of past legislatures which would twist arms or wait until certain people were on the floor to take the vote,” the governor said. “I hope we don’t repeat those practices that we criticized in the past. I hope everyone remains firm in their respectful beliefs, and they’re allowed to remain firm without fear of retaliation on other issues.”

With the House now in recess for the weekend, the earliest an override vote could happen is Monday night. And if the override fails or Moore doesn’t take a vote, the bill is dead for this session.

Opponents of the bill say the inaction gives them more time to lobby against the measure.

“The longer the #NCHouse delays a vote on #SB2, the more time you have to contact your #ncga rep,” tweeted Jonah Hermann, outreach director for the advocacy group Equality NC.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis contributed to this report.

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