In an unvarnished speech, Republican state Rep. Larry Pittman recently expressed doubts about the House speaker's conservative credentials, saying Thom Tillis' possible U.S. Senate bid is making it difficult to push legislation.
"I was proud to vote for Thom Tillis to be the speaker again, when we got back up there this year," Pittman told a crowd of activists in a video posted online. "Because last session, he was great. ... But, now he's running for U.S. Senate, or planning to, things have changed.
"They tell us all the time about how bad it was when they were in the minority and the Democratic leadership wouldn't let them get their bills moved or anything. Well now the constitutional conservatives, the Republican part of the House, knows what that's like." (See video above, starting at 11 minute mark.)
A Tillis spokesman said the claim is "inaccurate" and emphasized that the speaker has not made a decision about whether he would challenge Democrat Kay Hagan in 2014. UPDATED: Tillis wouldn't talk about Pittman's remarks. "I disagree with Rep. Pittman and that's my only comment," he said.
Pittman, a Concord lawmaker in his second term, said the speaker's office pressured Rep. Carl Ford to drop a resolution he sponsored that asserted North Carolina's right to establish its own religion. Tillis declared the bill dead shortly after it was introduced. "Carl was told very plainly you will withdraw this ... if you want any of your other bills passed," Pittman said. "That's exactly what he was told."
The strong words are not likely to earn Pittman, who often appears out of step with most Republicans, any friends in the House leadership. And he prefaced them with a warning: "I'm potentially getting myself in real trouble telling you this stuff," he told the crowd. "Because, the speaker's office doesn't want you knowing this stuff. So I'm in trouble, right now. Because I'm sure it'll get to him. It means probably none of my bills will go anywhere, but they're not going anywhere anyway. So that's the kind of thing that's happening. It really amazed me."
A person in the crowd thanked Pittman. The video was posted on YouTube.
Pittman is sponsoring two gun bills, including the Enabling Patriots Act. He said he originally wanted to add language to specify that students, faculty and staff at colleges could carry concealed weapons but it didn't make the bill that came from the drafting staff. But he's not sure that will go anywhere. "Well, that's too controversial, it might hurt somebody's Senate campaign," Pittman said.
He also described a color-coding system used by the speaker's office to categorize legislation. "There's a color code system that the speaker gives to, you know, committee chairs when those bills are sent to committee," Pittman said. "They're either coded green, yellow, or red. Those two gun bills right now are coded yellow. Which means for the moment they're not going anywhere. Could be changed. And, I haven't given up on it yet -- I'm still trying to do something with them."
Jordan Shaw, Tillis' spokesman, said Pittman is not the only lawmakers whose legislation hasn't received a hearing. He said two bills sponsored by the speaker have yet to get heard. "He's in good company," Shaw said.