House Democratic Leader Larry Hall (D-Durham) has been much in the news
this week. After a year and a half of trying to be dignified, trying
to air their grievances through the proper channels, trying not
to appear like 'sore losers', House Dems are finally coming
out and saying they're sick of being suppressed by the Republican
Hall has come out accusing Speaker of the House Thom Tillis of defunding the House Democratic Caucus as a retaliation for Democrat's questioning of the new legislative building rules that were clearly aimed at stifling Moral Monday. He says that he was told he would be defunded if he did not "apologize" to House Republican leaders for questioning the building rules changes. The "defunding" simply takes away the Democrats General Assembly earmarked budget to hire a chief-of-staff.
It is unheard of in NC General Assembly history for the majority party
to defund the minority party.
Hall and Dems are also calling Tillis out on shutting them out of the legislative process. According to Hall's calculations, Republicans have made motions to table Democratic amendments 51 times since they've had control of the House. Hall also says Republicans have been stifling debate, keeping Dems from voicing opposition to controversial legislation.
INDY caught up with Rep. Hall yesterday to talk about the recent developments.
Is this the first time a majority party has defunded a minority
If I recall correctly, there was one time when there was a Joint speakership
between Rep Morgan and Rep. Black. Republican Co-speaker Morgan
cut some of the individual legislative assistants to Republican
house members. That was a republican doing it to Republicans.
This is the first anyone has remembered this happening since
we started having caucuses.
Why do you think Tillis would defund the Caucus?
I was told that unless I apologized for opposing the Legislative Services Commission rules changes, they would not fund a chief-of-staff position for the caucus. I offered to resign my seat on the Legislative Services Commission, but I was not going to apologize for opposing what I thought were improper restrictions. The court ruled that those restrictions were improper and unconstitutional.
Who did they want you to apologize to?
It's my understanding that the speaker wanted me to apologize to individual members and said I would not receive funding until I did. I asked what I should be apologizing for. It was the opposition to the rules and the fact that I opposed the rules so publicly. I told him I wasn't going to apologize for my beliefs. If they wanted me off the commission, I would resign. But I wasn't going to retract my statements.
How was your meeting with Speaker Tillis?
It wasn't an official meeting. I waited until he was done speaking to a group in the Legislative Auditorium and then walked back to his office with him. I had previously spoken to his chief-of-staff and he was there.
At that point, I recounted for the speaker what was going on. His basic response was: we didn't need a person. And then of course I responded, its always been the tradition, the practice for us to hire a chief-of-staff and we need them to coordinate our actives like they use their staff to coordinate theirs. He said he'd give us the budget to have a person while we're in session, until the end of June.
He said, "it's my intention to be out of here by the end of June." I said why don't we agree to hire a person until the end of session. He said no, I'm only going to let you have a staff person for 30 days. Then he instructed the chief of staff to authorize a 30 day period. Keeping in mind that when we submitted a request for the staff person, we only submitted it for four months.
That money was approved as part of the operations of the General Assembly, budgeted by House and Senate and signed off by the Governor.
I've had several republicans say they were unaware of this and felt it was unfair. My response to them: it's your caucus. I don't have the authority to do anything but what I've done. I made the request through the proper channels. That's why I've gone public with it when I did.
They have also cut off debate more times in the last year than the Democrats did over an 8 year period. They're refusing to hear our amendments, refusing to let us make our arguments for our amendments. That's the environment we're in. They're trying to silence you and take away any ability you have to respond or participate.