Republican state lawmakers are about to lose their veto-proof majority. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson says that he’s optimistic that come January there will be more bipartisanship with Democrats now having some leverage.
Darren Jackson: Of course, you never know going into the session whether or not people will be willing to take advantage of those opportunities. But with divided government people expect you to talk to each other and work across party lines. And, now, with the governor's veto being able to be sustained, it's going to be required at least on bills that the governor's willing to veto. So I expect we will see a lot more cooperation at least on budget bills, economic development bills, and bills of that nature between the parties.
Marshall Terry: What makes you so optimistic? Have you heard from Republican lawmakers since the election about that?
Jackson: I've read some things that Republicans have said in the paper that the governor is going to have to work with them and meet them halfway. I think we will find out a good indication of what next session may look like when we come back in for the short session. In December of 2016 when we had a special session called to basically take a lot of then Governor-elect Cooper's gubernatorial powers, I think that set a tone for the following session that wasn't very good and didn't really encourage a lot of cooperation. So if Republicans come in and we just work on the constitutional amendments and things that we need to do and get out of here, I think that'll set a good tone. On the other hand, if they come in and try to do a lot of things that probably they shouldn't do one last time where they have a supermajority, then I think that'll set a totally different tone going into January.
Terry: Democrats have more bargaining power. You're optimistic about more bipartisanship. What issues will you be bringing up next session then amid all that?
The campaign has been very clear. We've been focused on two things. It's education funding, which includes teacher pay, but includes a lot of other things – textbooks. There are school systems in this state who can't afford to build new schools. There are a lot of us that thought instead of having six constitutional amendments on the ballot that we might have should have had a school bond, a statewide education bond on the ballot. And so I anticipate there will be a lot of discussions about that. The second thing is we very clearly talked about on the campaign trail was the expansion of Medicaid. And that is something that now I think we're up to 34, 35 states just this past election. We saw three red states approve Medicaid expansion. And I think that's something we'll be pushing very hard for in the Democratic caucus.
Terry: Going back to education for one quick second do you see foresee any plan for any work to be done on school safety in the new session?
Jackson: Oh yes, yes. I think that was something that the governor pushed forward. But the House seem interested, but the Senate never really engaged in. There's been a house safety committee that's continued to meet through the interim. I think you will see that. But a lot of that goes back to funding and you got to have the funding to do that. And I think the governor laid out a wish list so to speak on school safety funding. And I think now he'll be in a stronger position to push for that and see that included in the next budget.
Terry: Republicans are going to need Democratic votes in overturning any veto from the governor for the next two years. Do you foresee that happening on any specific issue?
Jackson: It's hard to know without the issue coming forward and knowing exactly what it is. I mean there's always issues where the governor disagrees with the general assembly, but, in general, I think the Democrats plan to stick together and realize that the only way we have any ability to force compromise or force people to talk to us is for us to stick together and that includes not only sticking together with your fellow members, but also sticking together with the governor.