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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

As lieutenant governor, keeping quiet about legislative moves

Although Scott approached his position as lieutenant governor seriously, he also believed firmly that he should not interfere in legislative business, he explains. He remembers in particular keeping quiet when the legislature voted itself a generous retirement package that he felt was unfair.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Was there any time during your service as lieutenant governor where you felt the desire, or maybe even the compulsion, to make any proposals of how to deal with public problems, where in a sense you took the initiative? Or was that just a forbidden option?
Well, I don't think I took any highly-visible role or leadership role in anything particularly. I was very conscious of the fact that, even though I was president of the senate and involved, I was not a senator. Jim Hunt made that mistake, early on when he was lieutenant governor. He went in there and started acting like he was the president pro tem, and they quickly put him back in his place. I was aware of that to begin with, and so I didn't try to go to committee meetings, I didn't put a heavy hand out there, as it were. I saw my role as trying to keep things moving, the process going. I never tried to interfere. One thing I did do—we had a special session on redistricting, and I sat in on a couple of those meetings, because sometimes the committees would meet at night, you know, and they'd just be drawing all kinds of lines and so on. I remember once we were sitting in there, and I was really more just curious to know what they were doing, and it wasn't even a real formal meeting of the committee, they were just trying to come up with some solution. This is when the "one man, one vote" rule came into place, and some legislators weren't going to be back. So this was after that. Anyway, it was redistricting, where some counties are obviously going to have to give up a legislator, and they were trying desperately to protect those legislators. So they had some scenarios drawn up on the chalkboard, and then they all broke and went for lunch or dinner, and a reporter came by and we saw it the next day in the paper. And that taught us a lesson. That was the first time. In that particular case, then-representative Chunker Wallace of Montgomery County—that was the one being eliminated, and it showed it being eliminated. That was the first he knew about it, when he saw it in the papers. That caused all kinds of repercussions. You see, that was on the House side, he was on the house and we were on the Senate.
But you wouldn't propose any legislation or take any initiative in public policy?
No. I did not have an agenda and I wasn't running for anything. One of the things that was interesting to me: it was during this period of time that the legislature set up its own retirement system. And of course— [pause] Wait a minute, now, I'm sorry, I'm getting the times confused. This was later, when I became governor. But it was being talked about in my last years as lieutenant governor. A retirement system for the general assembly, for legislators. The members of the senate staff, which would have been included in that, along with the house members and their staff, they were lobbying for it hard, and I remember getting involved in that and telling the staff that they needed to stay out of that, that they should not be, even though it would affect them. They were for it, very much for it, and I said, "That's not your role."
Now, this was the staff of your office, as lieutenant governor, or the staff of the legislators?
The staff of the legislators. I only had a staff of one, and that was the secretary. Now, later on, someone asked me once, "If you had had the veto power when you were governor, would there have been anything that you would veto?" And I said, "Well, I don't know but one thing for sure—now, there may have been some other things, but since I didn't have it, I didn't worry about it. But I would have vetoed the legislation creating the retirement system for legislators." Because I thought it was grossly unfair. They set up a retirement system for themselves far better than that for state employees or teachers. Much better. And I just didn't think that was right. I would have vetoed that. Not that I was against a retirement system, but the way they set it up.