Editorial: Even high profile Republicans say legislature's gone too far

Posted December 28, 2016

Members of the General Assembly watch as protestors errupt into chants in the state House gallery.

A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016; Editorial# 8103
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

If the current leadership of the General Assembly has been good for anyone, it’s been lawyers. Many of the legislature’s highly partisan, hastily drafted bills have ended up in court. Most of those bills have gone down in legal flames as courts ruled against the legislation.

It appears that sad, expensive history is ready to repeat itself. Again, acting in blind partisan haste, Republican leaders rammed through a massive power grab of Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s authority.

The sweeping bill, passed in just hours during the “fourth extra session” of the legislature, among other things shifts new authority in the Department of Public Instruction into the hands of newly elected Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson.

From the get-go this legislation was litigation-bound and within hours of its passage, Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper promised such action. He’s likely to be joined by Republican members of the state Board of Education.

It’s a cliché, but politics does make for strange bedfellows and this could end up being as strange a team as you might find. Cooper, the Democrat, may be side-by-side with State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey, a Republican appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

In this case, the new law moves oversight authority of North Carolina’s public schools from the state Board of Education to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. It also moves control of the Office of Charter Schools – and appointment of its executive director – from the governor to the state Superintendent. It also moves the power to hire and fire administrative and supervisory personnel in the Department of Public Instruction from the state board to the state superintendent.

Cobey’s Republican and conservative credentials are impeccable. He’s a former state GOP chairman, served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives and has had close ties to the old Congressional Club – the political apparatus of the late Sen. Jesse Helms and his political advisers.

Almost as quickly as McCrory signed the bill, Cobey labeled its attack on the authority of the state board “unconstitutional.” He said it was an effort to “diminish the board’s constitutional authority.” Cobey has said he expected the board to be meeting again this week to determine how to proceed.

Former Gov. Jim Martin, a Republican who often tangled with a Democratic-controlled General Assembly over maintaining his office’s authority, also voiced strong concerns about the bill.

Martin, in an interview with WFAE-FM in Charlotte, said provisions of the law taking appointive authority from the governor were violations of the state Constitution’s separation of power clause. “They (legislators) write the laws but they don’t have the authority to carry them out.”

Taxpayers have shelled out more than $10 million defending laws this GOP-led legislature has passed and had challenged in the courts. Thirteen out of 14 of those challenges have resulted in laws being ruled unconstitutional.

It is far past time for legislative leaders to realize the obvious: Their rash, impetuous, and poorly conceived actions prompt costly legal challenges and still fail to achieve the desired result.

It is time they wake up and realize these bad bills divert time, attention and funding away from North Carolina’s real priorities -- educating all our children, building our economy, protecting public safety and the environment and providing a high quality of life for all North Carolinians.


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  • Benjamin Kite Jan 4, 2017
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    Write their names down, find out where they are going to be, and pay them a visit. Make a difference to them personally. Don't just whine.

  • Matt Clinton Dec 28, 2016
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    Elections have consequences, and the Republicans won to keep control of the GA and to wield their power as they see fit. Your boy Roy will no doubt be throwing whatever weight he can around as well.

    The only advice I will give either side is this: Don't forget that whatever power you give yourself today will eventually be in the hands of the opposition. So, I advise both the governor and the assembly to limit themselves as much as possible. A limited government is the only kind that will be fair to who really matters... the people.

  • Teddy Fowler Dec 28, 2016
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    Its one thing that I have learned... is that the Republicans are slow learners... they rarely do anything first.... its the Democrats who teaches them the new tricks.....

  • Dave Elliott Dec 28, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Not a straw man argument at all. My point being that in 100 years, the Democrats have NOT done what the Republicans have done. If anyone disagrees with that, I would like to see examples. The sheer number of unconstitutional laws the Republicans have passed in such a short period of time is unprecedented.

  • Nicolle Leney Dec 28, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    But the General assembly actually considered changing State Health Plan eligibility rules for outgoing Council of State members, which would have given McCrory free health insurance on the State Health Plan for life. Luckily it didn't go far, but the fact that they even CONSIDERED it--after McCrory and the General Assembly refused to expand Medicaid--is sickening.


  • Marianne Tioran Dec 28, 2016
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    if democrats did the same thing, you would not hear any complaints

  • Marty Martin Dec 28, 2016
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    Millions in the Bible Belt, including NC, have NO access to affordable healthcare because GOP states refuse to expand Medicaid for the working poor.
    vote Democratic!

  • Robert Hartley Dec 28, 2016
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    comparing 100 years to 4 would be apples to oranges and would still show fewer instances with an average per year than what these guys have done in 4.

    Stop making straw man arguments.

    if it's wrong, it's wrong.

  • Dave Elliott Dec 28, 2016
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    Chris, how man unconstitutional laws did the Democrats pass during the 100 years they had control over the General Assembly? I doubt it's 13! I'd like to see examples of where Democrats have done such blatantly unlawful things.

  • Chris Davis Dec 28, 2016
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    The republicans acting like democrats. What is the world coming to?