It became clear today at the State Legislature that elected officials really, really, really don't want to vote on tolling you. They don't want to go on record when they decide to raise your taxes via tolls while keeping all the gas tax money you already pay.
Here's what happened.
Due to a technicality, H267, which has been written about extensively in these pages, apparently did not have the third reading and vote conducted correctly last week in the flurry of activity during cross-over. That meant that the bill had to come back to the NC House floor today for another vote - setting the stage for what turned out to be a disappointing display for anyone who wants open and transparent government.
A handful of brave legislators took this opportunity to buck leadership and put forth an amendment to re-insert language into the bill requiring an "act of the General Assembly" prior to implementing tolls on any existing interstate road. This is nothing but the language in the original version of the bill filed back in March. The intent of the amendment was to force the NCGA to specifically approve each tolling operation - including the I77 HOT lanes project. See the amendment here. (Note: The fact that the amendment did not mention I77 or any road specifically would imply that the original bill would have in fact applied to I77 - something that House Transportation Committee Chair and Mecklenburg Representative Bill Brawley denied to the Charlotte Observer in this article back in March.)
The amendment failed 16-99.
You read that correctly. Only 16 members of the NC House were willing to support an amendment that asked nothing more than they vote before implementing tolls on roads that will impact citizens for decades whenever one of these projects is initiated.
Now, here's the kicker as well as evidence of some serious arm twisting on this vote.
Not a single one of the original bill's primary sponsors voted for this amendment!!!
Reps Torbett, Collins, and Floyd were all present and none of them voted for an amendment that was exactly the same as the original bill they filed. Rep Wray was absent today and did not vote.
So, one has to believe that these representatives would not have voted for their own bill, OR there was some serious pressure applied to them to not vote for this amendment. Wonder where that pressure came from? Who has the juice to get someone to vote against their own bill?
As for the brave souls who voted "Yes" on this amendment, here they are. They all deserve a big "thank you" for doing what is right.
Democrats - Earle; Harrison; Luebke
Republicans - Blust; Brawley, Robert (not Bill); Brody; Bumgardner; Catlin; Cleveland; Conrad; Ford; Holloway; Lambeth; Pittman; Speciale; Turner
From Mecklenburg County, only Democrat Beverly Earle voted for the amendment. None of the county's Republicans stepped up to do the same.
This is your government.