This was supposed to be a great weekend for Thom Tillis. He’s presiding over the state House at a historic time for the NCGOP. The state GOP convention was in his neck of the woods. He got a prime speaking slot to debut himself as a US Senate candidate. But those @#*!*$% Tea Partiers had to show up and drop a big ol’ stink bomb on TT’s party.
As many of you — who faithfully read this blog — already know, ol’ Thom has been knocking heads lately with a group called Widen I-77 over the controversial plan to establish a pay-to-drive lane on that highway in Mecklenburg County. Tillis has tried to deflect some of the criticism by saying critics need to direct their concerns to local authorities.
Nevertheless, critics of pay-to-drive HOT lanes showed up in force at this weekend’s NCGOP convention to build support for their efforts. They went before the NCGOP executive committee, where we had a number of pairs of eyes and ears in place.
The anti-HOT lanes crowd initially sought to get a resolution approved by the committee expressing opposition to the installation of toll roads in North Carolina. It was determined that a quorum-plus-one was present, so business went forward.
Tillis and outgoing Party Chairman Robin Hayes were the most outspoken critics of the anti-Hot lanes resolution. According to one of my sources in the room:
Speaker Tillis spoke against it, saying HOT Lanes are not planned to go across our state and that we should work through our local towns and governing boards to stop them, and we should not tie the hands of Governor McCrory and his road plan. Not many people appeared impressed with that argument. Robin Hayes also spoke against it, saying we should not comment regarding items currently under consideration by the legislature. Again, not many people appeared to be impressed.
Another source in the room told me that anti-HOT lane speakers started to dominate the debate. As the number of the anti-forces began to grow, my source said Tillis pulled a surprise move:
When there were eight people lined up to speak in support of the resolution and no one in opposition, Tillis got up with the woman next to him. On his way out of the room, he was saying something to people in a number of aisles. Some of them got up with him and walked out with him.
Then they called for quorum and we did not have it — thanks to Thom and his lady friend leaving. So, business was halted and there was no vote at all on the resolution.
Anti-HOT lane forces DID end up with a pleasant surprise: an anti-HOT lane plank was inserted into the state party’s platform. One well-placed party source told me:
“The amendment to the platform is much stronger than the initial resolution. The platform is a much higher order document which should guide how the party acts. So the toll opponents actually achieved a huge victory. While the resolution would have given it a little more punch, the platform is much more important.”