The NC Senate floor was the site of a somewhat lively debate over SB354, a bill describing the new teacher pay schedule, as Republicans attempted to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the bill. Three fifths—or 30 of the 50 senators—would have been needed to override the veto, and Republicans were using the vote to test the waters for a proposed veto override of the state budget bill.
Sen. Joyce Waddell of Mecklenburg County said the amount that was set aside for retirees was an insult and that the state could do better than this. Sen. Erica Smith of Northampton County, who is currently running in the Democratic primary for US Senate, said that some teachers were being left out of the pay raise that was proposed in the current budget and spoke of her own experience transitioning from engineering to teaching.
Perhaps the deciding factor in the debate were the statements given by Sen. Don Davis of Pitt County. His statements presented a turning point, not necessarily in its persuasiveness, but rather in its implications for the final vote. For the Republicans to reach the necessary number of votes to override they would need at least one Democrat to vote alongside them and Davis was perhaps the most likely to do so. Davis was one of seven Democrats who voted with Republicans on a state budget in June of last year.
He had also voted with Republicans on the Born Alive Act, another bill vetoed by Gov. Cooper, but this time Davis stated that he could not go along with this bill as it was written. Chief among his concerns were wages for non-certified personnel in schools. His voice rose and he became passionate when speaking of the school bus drivers and janitors who wake up early and work hard for North Carolina schools are among what he said were the “lowest-paid workers in the state”. Davis said that he was not opposed to working with Republicans to reach a budget solution but that he wanted greater concessions in this area.
On the Republican side Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County asked why, if Democrats were okay with a 3.9% raise for teachers in June of last year, they were not okay with it now. HB 354 was ratified in the State Senate on October 31st of last year passing 28 to 21, with 1 abstention. It was then vetoed by Gov. Cooper, and in today’s vote again receiving 28 votes in favor to 21 voted against with 1 abstention, falling short of the threshold needed for an override.