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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 >>

Seeking to address various interests as lieutenant governor

Scott describes his relationship with the North Carolina legislature. Democrats dominated state politics, he remembers, so he did not have to navigate as many partisan rivalries as do contemporary politicians. He did need to be responsive to other interests, though, including the desires of legislators and the need for them to appease their constituents. It appears that Scott wielded most of his power through committee appointment and by assigning bills to certain committees, depending on the legislators' wishes.

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

JACK FLEER:
Well, given that particular fact about your concern on that system, how do you assess the relationship between you as lieutenant governor and the legislature? What did you see your relationship as being? What were you expected to do, from the legislative standpoint?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Well, from the legislative standpoint, I was expected to stay out of it, pretty much. But our relationships, I think, were much more cordial then than it is today. First of all, the house and the senate were both heavily Democratic, so we were the same political party. And the house and the senate worked much more closely together, because there just wasn't that competition, that conflict between the house and the senate on legislative matters. We often had joint committees—a joint appropriations committee, joint committees on whatever subject. And that hastened the process along, because they'd work it out in a joint committee and then it would go to the committees of the respective chambers and be passed rather quickly, because it had been worked out by both houses of the general assembly. And we would have frequent conferences between the presiding offices of the two bodies; our legislative staffs worked more closely together, I think—in fact, I'm sure they did. And, you know, when the sessions were over, we'd have a traditional love-feast, you know, and gifts. That silver service set sitting right over there, I think that's the one that was a gift from the members of the Senate to me and my wife. They don't do that kind of thing anymore, and one could say the "good old boy" atmosphere—well, maybe there was some truth in that, but the civility is not there anymore. And the house and the senate, you know, they're just going for each other's throats. And the same thing with the governor's office. We didn't have a huge staff-just a research staff, and all of that. We had some staff, but not nearly as much as they have now. And so we relied on the governor and the agencies of the state government for our information. But the legislature's grown much more independent now. They act like Congressmen, in Washington. During the time I was governor, and even as lieutenant governor, I think the state legislature was the fastest growing agency of the state government.
JACK FLEER:
I have traced that growth. So, as a lieutenant governor, in your relationship with the legislature, you were basically there to preside?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Preside. And yet it was more than that. You know, sometimes they would come and ask me, the members of the senate—My feelings, I had so much camaraderie with the members of the senate that they would always keep me informed, and my close supporters in the senate would try to prevent their being a tie vote where I would have to go show my hand. Only a couple of times, I think, I had to break a tie vote; I don't even remember what the issues were.
JACK FLEER:
I'm sure I can think of a number of reasons, but why did you think they didn't want you to have to show your hand?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Friendship, I guess, and I guess some of them said, Well, he may run for governor. And I would have one or two floor leaders, you know, and I'd say, "How's this vote going to turn out?" And they would move around and lean over and talk to this senator and then go around and talk to that one and then come back and say, "The vote's going to be thus and so", and they'd be pretty close to right. Remember that, of course, during those days, the lieutenant governor had the authority to appoint committees and to refer legislation, and that made me much more involved as a part of the senate. So they wanted to be in my good graces, the members of the senate, so that if they had a bill, they could get me to refer that to a friend in committee. And they also, prior to the session, would like to serve on certain committees, and they would like a certain person to be named chairman of those committees. But the lieutenant governor had that authority, which was considerable. And if I was opposed to a certain piece of legislation, I could refer it to an unfriendly committee, or one that I knew it would never see the light of day in. So that enabled me to be much more a part of the process than the lieutenant governor today. And that power also—the governor's office was aware of that, and he would want to get his legislation through. And so yes, I did confer with the governor's legislative liaison, and so forth, but that was more a matter of process than it was initiating legislation.
JACK FLEER:
Was it felt at that time that it was appropriate for the governor or the governor's office to talk with you about those appointments or those legislative referrals, that was an acceptable thing to do?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Oh, yes. That was an acceptable thing to do. And you know, the governor in some cases had no feeling about it—say, the committee on agriculture and the committee on cities and towns, he didn't really care too much about that, you know. So they recognized the lieutenant governor's authorities and respected that, just as I would recognize the governor's authorities. There wasn't any pressure brought. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] [TAPE 2, SIDE A] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
JACK FLEER:
The relationship between you and the governor and the possibility of the governor having some influence, say, on you, in making appointments to committees and making referral of legislation?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
You know, there was no problem with communication. The governor's desires would be made known, if he had any in a particular situation, and I would take that into account. I guess in terms of appointing committees and committee chairs, the greatest interest in that came from the senators themselves. I know the late senator Julian Allsbrook, of Roanoke Rapids in Halifax County, took great pride in the fact that, ever since he'd been in the state senate, he'd always been chairman of the judiciary committee number one. And it was just beyond any possible understanding of his that he would have anything else. Judiciary committee number two would not suffice. That was the only thing he wanted in the way of appointments. Of course, the longevity or seniority wasn't really a factor, in the end, but sometimes you do kind of respect it, if a person has done a good job and you have no objection to it, like Senator Allsbrook. I could care less, in that situation. So again, as you well understand, in the appointment of committees, you're trying to get a certain balance geographically to the state and to certain interests. You want to be certain that the agricultural people have their representation on committees other than agriculture. Where a lot of the influence tried to be placed—well, not pressure, but—came from the special interest groups, like the educators, the North Carolina Association of Educators. They were very interested in who was going to be on their subcommittees on appropriations. And the agricultural organizations, of course, were concerned about who was going to be, not only chair of the committee, but who was going to be on those committees. And they, the so-called special interest groups—which weren't called that in those days, that's a relatively new term—but they would not hesitate to come. Utilities, that was a big one. The utility companies wanted very much to have some say in who was going to be on the utilities committee. During that particular period of time, we were trying to work out an agreement by law between the private utilities and the rural electric cooperative associations. That was a bitter battle, back in those days, about territorial rights. So in those cases, it was anticipated there might be a legislative activity, perhaps very controversial activity, the commodity organizations, the special interest groups, would have a great deal of interest and would spend some time with the lieutenant governor trying to make their case, "We'd like to have these people on the committee."