Cover Story: Midnight madness in Raleigh?

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Midnight madness erupts in Raleigh.  An unprecedented meeting by the General Assembly in the middle of the night.

Governor Bev Perdue is upset saying lawmakers trampled the state constitution.  While lawmakers say they didn't do anything wrong.

To hear the Democrats and the governor talk, you'd think the GOP staged a coup in Raleigh.

Republican leaders say it's a good sound bite, but not the truth.

Which was it? Who's right?

"It was deliberate. It was willful. And in my view it was also malicious and harmful to the people of this state," said Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Cumberland county commenting on what happened in the wee early morning hours at the Legislative Building in Raleigh on Thursday.

Lawmakers were called to the Capitol to vote on whether to override Gov. Perdue's veto of a bill repealing the controversial Racial Justice Act which lets death row inmates introduce stats about racial discrimination to help prove their case.

Republicans had the three-fifths majority in the Senate to override the governor's veto and they did.

But over in the House instead of taking up a vote to override the veto, Republicans in control referred it to a bipartisan committee.

Then it got sticky.

Late Wednesday night House leaders modified a resolution to adjourn.  And called members back into session after midnight to vote on another bill that Gov. Perdue vetoed.

This was a bill that eliminates the ability of the state's largest teachers union, the North Carolina Association of Educators, to have dues deducted directly from teachers' paychecks.

The NCAE, Republicans say, is a lobbying group for the Democratic party, and the group has been critical of the GOP in the General Assembly.

Brian Lewis, a lobbyist for the NCAE, says it was vindictive of House Republicans and Speaker Thom Tillis.

"Clearly what the Speaker said this is retribution from teachers and public school educators criticizing this General Assembly," said Lewis.

Tillis defended the political maneuvering.

"There are some people who don't like the fact that we are here tonight. The fact of the matter is we've got it done. We're out of here. We're saving money and we're going back home," he said.

Democratic Gov. Perdue called the move an "unprecedented, unconstitutional power grab."  She called lawmakers into session to deal with just one bill, the Racial Justice Act.

Did they violate the Constitution as the Governor alleges?  Or amend an adjournment resolution which House leaders say they're allowed to do.

Aimee Walls, an attorney at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Government who counsels state and local lawmakers on the law, says it's unclear who's right.

"Since resolutions aren't mentioned in the Constitution it's unclear whether they have the authority to consider resolutions during that period," she said.

Democrats are making hay out of the move.

Republicans say they followed the rules and say they had the support of two Democratic members in the House in overriding a gubernatorial veto and scoring a political victory against the state's largest teachers union.

The NCAE says it will challenge the action.  If the dues check-off issue is allowed to stand it'll make it harder for the group to bring in money.

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