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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The North Carolina legislature gathered power in the early 1970s

Scott watched the legislative branch of North Carolina's government grow during his tenure as governor, he recalls. He did not try to push back as legislators gathered more powers for themselves and exerted more and more influence, but neither does he support this expansion.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. 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

As an executive official, as the chief executive official of the state, did you conclude your relationship with the legislature believing that the legislature was too powerful?
No, I wouldn't say that I felt they were too powerful, although I was beginning to get a sense—and the legislature was moving that way—that they were exercising more and more power than they had historically. They were acting more and more like the Congress of the United States, and distancing themselves from the executive branch. They were developing their own staff, physical research, and the legislative committee, the legislative structure in their staffing down there, was one of the fastest areas of state government growth, the legislative staff. They were putting more and more of their own research capabilities into place, the legislative research commission, and the physical staff. They didn't take the word of the executive branch anymore with respect to budgets and all that. So I could sense that they were moving that direction, and it was inevitable. The legislative sessions were getting longer and longer, they were more prone to come back for certain things, and I just felt like they were moving in that direction. I didn't particularly like it, but I also accepted it.
Did you have any thought, during your service as governor, to try to improve the power of the governor with either the veto power or the right of succession?
Well, I thought about it, but I realized it was not doable, so I didn't extend any capital on that. In fact, I was surprised when Governor Hunt got it done, because I just felt like the legislature's not going to give up that much power to the governor. But I'm glad that the legislature would, except the state itself is changing, people coming in from other states, you know, and we were coming more and more out of isolation, if you will. I've often said, tongue in cheek, that one of the biggest mistakes in the whole scheme of government in the United States was when they started having the National Legislative Conference. The legislators would go, and they'd find out what other states are doing, and come back and want to do it here, and pick up an idea or two. I say we should never have let them get together.
But on the governorship, they would have found that they were the exception. I mean on the veto, excuse me.
That's right. When I addressed the legislature at the end of my term, we had a budget surplus, and I recommended that we give a small tax reduction, and something else, I've forgotten, but the legislative leadership at that time said, No, sir. But I was going to be out of office, I wasn't going to be there to defend it. You see, the outgoing governor proposes the budget, and I had that in there. I wasn't in office to defend that concept, so wasn't any point in getting exercised about it.