As Republican leaders of the North Carolina House of Representatives discussed on Friday morning how they could ram through a draconian budget with the help of five nervous Democratic allies, they had no idea that an open mic was piping their remarks directly into the press room.
Later in the day, Democratic Governor Bev Purdue got laughs at their expense during a press conference by pretending to fiddle with a bank of microphones and asking, “Are these things on? Is there a switch I need to …”
According to the Charlotte Observer, the Republican caucus was particularly concerned that the Democrats who planned to join them in passing the budget might be embarrassed by overly frank discussion of some of its provisions.
“On one point, I only want David Lewis to talk,” stated Majority Leader Paul Stam. “The talk about redistricting and this thing in the budget is extremely sensitive to the other people not in this room who are voting with us. No one but David talk. David can obfuscate more than anybody I know.”
Governor Purdue has been feuding with the Republicans who dominate the state legislature over their budget plans. On Friday, she issued an executive order extending unemployment benefits for 47,000 unemployed workers, accusing the Republicans of having “persistently attempted to use our unemployed workers as hostages by tying the extension of their benefits to my acceptance of budget bills that would inflict severe and unnecessary cuts to our schools and other essential programs.”
One of the other sensitive issues discussed by the caucus was a bill that would prevent members of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) from having union dues deducted directly from their paychecks. The NCAE has been sending mailers on the bill to constituents of the five Democrats who are supporting the Republican budget.
“The NCAE has gone into all five districts with mailers hammering these Democrats,” House Speaker Thom Tillis said. “We just want to give them a little taste of what’s about to come. It’s going to be in Rules, and they’re going to be mad.”
The caucus also discussed the importance of getting a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage onto the ballot next fall as a means of getting out their vote and spoke with pleasure of having conducted what one representive called “one of the most conservative, pro-family legislative sessions I’ve ever seen.”
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