by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Parents across North Carolina shouldn’t place any bets on Democratic lawmakers helping to ensure a public school reopening bill moves forward. History suggests those lawmakers will side with Gov. Roy Cooper, who vetoed the bill Friday.
Only one of the three Democratic state senators who originally voted for the reopening bill, Senate Bill 37, ever has cast a “yes” vote to override a Cooper veto. No current Democratic senator ever has changed his initial vote from “no” to “yes” to support an override of Cooper.
Cooper sent his veto to the Senate at 4:47 p.m. Friday, nine days after lawmakers finalized the bill. The governor announced his decision one day before a constitutional deadline required him to act.
For S.B. 37 to become law now, both the Senate and House would need to approve the measure again with three-fifths majorities, or 60% of the vote. The Senate must take the first vote since the bill started in that chamber.
Both the House and Senate initially approved the measure with votes exceeding the three-fifths threshold. But those totals included Democrats voting alongside Republican majorities. Recent history suggests those same Democratic votes will be harder to secure for a veto override.
Democratic Sens. Ben Clark, Kirk deViere, and Paul Lowe all cast “yes” votes on the final version of S.B. 37.
If every senator shows up for a veto override vote, Republicans would need two Democrats to join them to meet the three-fifths threshold. If they can’t get two votes from among the three initial Democratic “yes” votes, they would need to flip “no” votes from Democratic senators. That hasn’t happened in the Senate since Cooper took office in 2017.
One Democrat — Sen. Ernestine Bazemore — was absent during the initial vote on S.B. 37. Bazemore is a first-term senator. She never has cast a vote on a veto override.
Within the current Senate Democratic caucus, only two other members have confirmed initial “yes” votes and opposed Cooper on a veto override.
Other current Democratic senators who have had a chance to confirm a “yes” vote and support an override of a Cooper veto:
So the odds don’t look particularly good for Republicans to secure the 30 votes they will need to override Cooper in the Senate on S.B. 37. They will need to convince a couple of Democrats that school reopening is more important than allegiance to Cooper.