Stalemate still on as N Carolina legislature ends this year

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and his Republican rivals fought to a draw as the North Carolina legislature adjourned its longest annual session in nearly 20 years this month, still with no conventional state budget in place and many favored GOP items blocked.

It may take the November 2020 elections to break the logjam in the closely divided, fast-growing state, which while leaning Republican this decade has shown some recent signs of toggling to the left.

“If you can’t change the rules of the game, then you need to change the players,” state Senate Minority Whip Jay Chaudhuri, a Democrat, said in an interview, adding the budget stalemate “absolutely means it will be a political issue going into a political year.”

Democratic gains in 2018 narrowed GOP seat advantages and increased Cooper’s leverage with his veto stamp. That’s in contrast to the first half of his term, when GOP veto-proof majorities left Cooper largely unable to halt Republican actions, except through litigation.

“We vetoed 14 pieces of legislation, and none of them have been overridden,” Cooper told reporters last week. “We’ve been able to stop some bad legislation.”

But Republicans contend Cooper, who is up for reelection next year along with all 170 legislative seats, has miscalculated by obstructing the budget’s passage, vetoing a “born-alive” abortion prohibition and mandate upon sheriffs to help federal immigration agents.

“He might have won a victory, but did he win the political war?” asked GOP Rep. Jason Saine, a top House budget-writer, adding the governor now must own his veto record.

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