Editorial: Even high profile Republicans say legislature's gone too far
Posted December 28, 2016
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.