House Speaker Thom Tillis and GOP leaders used an obscure rule to protect what Democrats call an inauguration "slush fund" in the state budget.
Rep. Deborah Ross, a Raleigh Democrat, proposed taking the extra $330,000 Republicans earmarked for the next governor's inauguration and transition and putting it toward a federal matching grant for Help America Vote Act money. Another provision pulled in $230,000 through the state's budget office.
The state needs to spent about $664,000 to get $4 million in federal money designed to open early voting sites and test voting machine equipment. The House and Senate included the money in their respective budgets but stripped it from the final version.
House Rule 62, in the back of the rule manual, gives lawmakers the ability to cite Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure for matters not covered in the rule. Republican Rep. David Lewis invoked it and Tillis rushed a vote on it to prevent the House from considering Ross' amendment. Why the GOP needed to invoke this rule, as opposed to use its own to defeat the amendment, is unclear.
Ross appeared indignant about being cut off before being allowed to even explain her amendment to a budget tweaking bill. "It's unfortunate that this body ... is not allowing all members to participate," she said.
Ross went on to describe "abuses of the rules" and "the outright fear of public debate" before Tillis cut her off mid-sentence.