Editorial: Cooper can give legislative leadership lesson in openness
Posted January 18
Updated January 23
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017: Editorial# 8112
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
Bill Cobey, the chairman of the State Board of Education, has precisely identified the biggest problem with the way the North Carolina General Assembly currently operates.
During an appearance on the “Education Matters” television program, Cobey said the General Assembly’s “sweeping shift” of constitutional authority from the state board to the Superintendent of Public Instruction was arbitrary and a complete “surprise.”
In just a few hours, House Bill 17 was disclosed, discussed and passed by the GOP dominated legislature. It was signed into law with similar dispatch by the governor at the time, Republican Pat McCrory.
"It would have been helpful if we had been involved, but nobody contacted us. We were as surprised as anybody when the legislation came forward," Cobey said. I haven’t figured out what the General Assembly thinks we’ve done wrong.”
Cobey is no outlier renegade. He’s a former state Republican Party chairman, was a member of Congress and served as a cabinet secretary for former Republican Gov. Jim Martin.
But what happened to Cobey and the state Board of Education is, sadly, the way nearly every significant issue and bill is handled these days.
Legislative leaders secretly concoct a proposal and sit on it for weeks or months. Then in the final moments before a legislative deadline, details emerge out of nowhere and legislation is fast-tracked through the system.
The results are obvious: sloppily drafted laws that are relics of the 50s and 60s and either fail to address the intended target or are unconstitutional. Better than a dozen bills passed under the current legislative leadership have been tested by the courts and failed. It all amounts to little more than an “ideological wild goose chase.”
Get ready for more.
There is no reason to believe that the current legislative session will be any different.
Which leads us to make the following suggestion:
As part of the preparation to submit his budget proposals, Gov. Roy Cooper should hold a series of town hall meetings around the state to:
- Present and explain his plans;
- Give people the opportunity to discuss and explain their reaction to his proposals;
- Offer citizens the chance to express their concerns, hopes and aspirations.
Cooper should also expressly invite local legislators – Republicans and Democrats -- to the sessions. They’d probably find it enlightening and empowering to participate in open discussions to find real solutions to improve our state. It's not happening on Jones Street.
If they show up, highlight their participation. If they don’t, point that out too.
Roy Cooper knows that there is wisdom and power to be tapped and harnessed when ideas and initiatives are openly shared, discussed and developed.
The gerrymandered legislature may have built themselves a veto-proof fortress in Raleigh but there are legions of voices throughout the state awaiting an opportunity to participate and be heard.
It’s time to hit the road governor.