The Republicans must figure they are not long for control of North Carolina, because apparently they’ve decided to set the state on fire.
After concluding the special session in which it approved disaster-relief funding for parts of North Carolina, the GOP-controlled General Assembly called itself a new special session today. And in the past few hours, no fewer than 21 House bills and seven Senate bills have been introduced.
I haven’t even had a chance to look at them all yet. But the few I have seen are both alarming and infuriating, both in terms of substance and in terms of how they’re being ramrodded through: Not one of them couldn’t have waited for the next regular session, in January, when they could have been debated fairly. No, this is one big, fat fuck you to give to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to sign as he leaves office after having been voted out.
Per my friend and former colleague Joe Killian, who’s covering the session for the N.C. Justice Center, the bills include (but are not limited to) measures that would:
- Combine the State Board of Elections with the state ethics commission.
- Make it a 4-4 Dem/GOP split, rather than the current 3-2 with the majority being of the governor’s party.
- Make Supreme Court elections partisan again. (The prevailing theory here is that Mike Morgan beat Republican incumbent Bob Edmunds this year in what was otherwise a pretty big year for Republicans in N.C. because not enough Republicans knew that Edmunds was a Republican.)
- Repeal the sales tax exemption for sales of certain properties used in wastewater dispersal systems — basically a way of making environmentally friendly land use more cost-prohibitive, although Joe suggests that this esoteric subject may be just a placeholder bill to be amended to another subject entirely.
- Allow McCrory to name the chair of the state Industrial Commission before leaving office. Currently, it would be left to the incoming governor, Democrat Roy Cooper.
- Eliminating vehicle emissions inspections in some smaller counties.
- Change the appeal process when a lower court finds that the General Assembly has violated the Constitution or federal law.
- Allows judicial appointments and the Industrial Commission chair appointment now, rather than after Jan. 1 when Cooper takes office. Joe notes that this measure drew hisses and boos and that House Speaker Tim Moore warned the assembled gallery about that.
- Moves the state Information Technology out from under the governor’s office and places it under the lieutenant governor, currently batshit insane Republican Dan Forest.
- Increase maximum class sizes in grades K-3.
- Increase the state’s financial commitment to provide school buses and road improvements for charter schools as well as public schools.
- Require the governor’s Cabinet appointments to receive Senate confirmation.
- Make criminal mug shots no longer a public record.
- Reduce from about 1,500 to fewer than 300 the number of state employees who serve at the pleasure of the governor — a number lower than when it was first expanded under McCrory.
So, basically, they’re stripping the gov of much of his powers before Cooper takes office, taking this opportunity to steer more state taxpayer money to private interests in the charter-school sector, eroding open government, screwing public education (again), screwing the environment (again), and putting the fox in charge of the ethical henhouse.
The one good development is that Tricia Cotham, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, took the shooting license given by the GOP leaders as an opportunity to file a bill that would kill the I-77 toll-lanes project north of Charlotte. Opposition to that project in affluent northern Mecklenburg, normally a hotbed of Republican votes, was one of the main reasons McCrory lost re-election.
Note that there’s not a GOT-damn thing on this list that couldn’t have been dealt with in the regular legislative session, which begins in January. No, this is the Nazis blowing up Rhine River bridges as they retreat.
This is what gerrymandering and a “fuck you” attitude toward the public have allowed Republicans in this state to do. And this is why they must all be flushed from state government. The 4th Circuit’s ruling that current legislative districts are unconstitutionally gerrymandered won’t help us tonight, but the new elections ordered for 2017 might help restore some order and balance to the Statehouse. We can hope. But for now, some seriously bad shit is going down tomorrow, and Democrats and the public can only march with torches and pitchforks. They sure can’t stop it.