The partisan politics of the Wake County School Board spilled over to the state legislature Monday night as the House voted largely down party lines to support a Republican-backed bill to have the board chair vote on all issues.
Currently, the chair of the nine-member board votes only in the event of a tie.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican who is the primary sponsor of House Bill 498, said Wake is the only urban school district in the state where the chair doesn't vote.
Rep. Rosa Gill, a Raleigh Democrat and past chairwoman of the Wake School Board, said that was for good reason. A non-voting chair allows that leader to serve as a creditable peacemaker and consensus builder between different board fractions.
Current school board chairman Ron Margiotta, a Republican, backs the change.
Rep. Deborah Ross, another Democrat from Raleigh, pointed out that the local board split 5-3 on the issue on that the county's legislative delegation was also divided on the issue, with all the Democrats opposed.
"Things are pretty hot with the board right now," said Ross, referring to contentious issues such as school assignment policy. "The last thing the Wake Schools need right now is another point of controversy."
Dollar then attempted to ask Ross a question, but mistakenly referred to her by the name of Rep. Jennifer Weiss. Ross declined to yield the floor for Dollar's question.
"I prefer not to yield until he learns who I am," a testy Ross replied.
Dollar then asked his rhetorical question to fellow Republican and bill co-sponsor Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, who promptly agreed with him.
The measure passed its second reading 71-47. A third reading, required to pass the chamber, is scheduled for Wednesday, when Gill said she planned to offer a new amendment. If approved, the bill will then go to the Senate for consideration.