Under the Dome

Wake Commissioner Tony Gurley on defeat of school construction bill

Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley is attributing “jealousy” and unexpected defections among state House Republicans for the defeat of a bill that would have changed who controls school construction.

Wake GOP commissioners had asked for state legislation that would have turned authority for school construction away from the school board and over to the county. After starting as a statewide bill, the state Senate approved a version that only included Wake and a handful of other counties.

After that bill stalled in the House, a new bill affecting only Wake was approved by the Senate. But the vote to approve it in the House was defeated near the end of the session in July as a number of Republican legislators opposed the bill.

Gurley was asked Thursday at the Wake County Taxpayers Association’s meeting why he hadn’t called on them to help lobby legislators to pass the bill.

Gurley answered that Tom Fetzer, the lobbyist hired by the commissioners and the former state GOP chairman, had developed a list of GOP legislators who said they would back the bill and those who said they were opposed or were questionable.

With what turned out to be the correct assumption that no Democrats would back the bill, Gurley said Fetzer told him they could survive up to 15 Republican no votes.

Gurley said Fetzer gave him a list of GOP legislators to contact with the goal of converting four. Gurley said he knew all the names on the list from his unsuccessful bid last year for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

“I converted like seven and we should have won,” Gurley said. “But the list that had told Tom they would support us didn’t. And so it was legislators that I wouldn’t have known to tell you to call ‘em because they had said they were going to do it”

“But there is a lot of jealousy toward Wake County in the legislature,” Gurley continued. “And the way that we ran this bill, where it was a statewide bill and then we took it out at the end, we made some enemies in the way we did the process.

If we had just run this as a Wake County bill from the very beginning it would have passed in the middle of the session, no problem. But we messed up and coming in at the last day, there were just some Republicans that had said they would support it that just didn’t like the smell. So I thought I had it.”

Gurley said commissioners would pursue the legislation again when the General Assembly reconvenes for the short session in May.


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