Charlotte lawmaker receives pay for special session she didn't attend

Lawmaker accepts pay for special session

. - State Senator Joyce Waddell (D-Mecklenburg) received per diem pay for last week's one-day special session that she did not attend, according to information provided by the General Assembly's legislative services staff.

Other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus received pay despite refusing to attend the vote on the controversial bill for which the special session was called.

Senate Democrats refused to vote on HB2—the law overturning Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance and setting a standard non-discrimination standard for the state, among other things—and did not attend the session. Eleven Democratic senators were in Raleigh for the session but refused to vote, including Senator Jeff Jackson from Charlotte.

Four other Democratic senators were not in Raleigh for the special session, including Senators Joyce Waddell and Joel D. Ford.

Members of the General Assembly automatically receive a $104 subsistence stipend  for ever day they're in session and a weekly travel allowance based on one round trip from their home to the legislature.

Information provided by the General Assembly's legislative services staff show only four of the fifteen Democratic senators who were either absent or did not vote requested they not receive their subsistence stipend and travel allowance.

Jackson, the Charlotte-area senator who was in Raleigh for the session but did not vote, waived his travel and subsistence pay. Ford, who was not present for the session, also waived his travel and subsistence pay.

"Unfortunately I had a previous work commitment and, so, therefore, was not able to participate and did not feel it was right to take the per diem," Ford said.

But Waddell, who also did not attend the session, did receive her travel and subsistence stipend, which amounted to $192.74, according to information provided by the legislative services division.

A spokeswoman for Waddell told On Your Side Investigates that she was too busy attending events in Charlotte to respond to a request for comment seeking an explanation for why she accepted money for going to a session she did not attend.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) said he thought Waddell was in Raleigh the day before the session but acknowledged she was not at the legislature for the special session.

"If you aren't going to be there, you should probably ought not to accept the per diem," he said, adding that the decision of whether to accept the per diem is up to each individual senator.

Blue also defended the decision by other members of his caucus to accept pay for the session in which they did not vote.

"They participated, tried to offer amendments in committee and we totally dismissed and were involved in the process as much as republicans would let them be involved," Blue said, adding that people did not elect him and members of his caucus to go to Raleigh just to cast votes.

"People elected us to come and act intelligently when we vote," Blue said. "When you're not allowed to participate in the process and you're just expected to vote, that's mechanical. We're not elected to be robots."

Two Republican senators, Bob Rucho from Mecklenburg County and Dan Soucek, from Watauga County, were also not present for last week's special session. Legislative staff tells On Your Side Investigates the two did not receive a stipend.

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