Editorial: Legislators need to get out of the courtroom and down to business
Posted May 3
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, May 3, 2017; Editorial # 8156
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
It is worth observing that while the General Assembly has been cutting the number of judges on North Carolina’s trial and appeals courts, its own legislative actions continue to pile new cases on the workload of the state’s judicial system.
Even before Gov. Roy Cooper was sworn into office, the legislature’s attempts to weaken or take away his authority became the subject of lawsuits in state and federal courts.
Those lawsuits come on top of several already in the courts over efforts to restrict access to the polls, gerrymander congressional, legislative, county commission and even local school board districts, and more. Not only have the bills become the subject of lawsuits, a new challenge contends an entire extra legislative session last December was illegal.
The plaintiffs argue that the instantly called extra session violated state constitutional mandates that the public be given adequate notice of potential legislative action. It is an original and untested challenge to the legislative leadership’s continued efforts to control every aspect of North Carolina government – including the executive agencies and the courts.
Last week, a three-judge panel again ruled against the legislature in its continued effort to needlessly reorganize, and weaken, the state agencies that oversee elections and public officials’ ethics.
The legislature’s efforts to disrupt the institutions of state government – making sure they don’t run smoothly -- are not limited to partisan fights with the governor. The Republican leadership in the legislature has been embroiled in a power struggle between the new Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction and the GOP-led State Board of Education over control of the state’s education bureaucracy.
The legislative leadership is even sticking its ever-growing nose where it certainly doesn’t belong – seeking to dictate the operation and policies of county and city governments as well as local school boards.
While it certainly wouldn’t be prudent to predict the outcome of these challenges, the General Assembly’s recent track record in court hasn’t been the stuff of championship seasons and it would be hard to bet against the challenges.
The unfortunate result of all this unnecessary litigation isn’t merely the high costs of the court battles, but rather the way it distracts lawmakers from addressing the fundamental and most pressing needs of the state.
Is it really more worthwhile to antagonize and irritate political opponents in a courtroom than work with them to get public schoolteacher and administrator pay out of the national basement?
Is it worth the continued denial of health coverage to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who have been left out since 2014?
There are times when serious disputes can only be settled in the courts. Unfortunately that’s not the exception these days. The legislature’s continued efforts at over-reach have made the lawsuits commonplace.
It is time for the leadership of the General Assembly to stop going out of its way to pick petty fights with the governor and others.
The legislature must get out of the courtroom, end its culture of neglect and turn its focus to what’s good for the state. It’s time for lawmakers to deliver a budget that: expands public education quality and opportunity; provides an economic boost for all North Carolinians that goes beyond tax cuts; provides hundreds of thousands with health insurance and promotes a better quality of life, public safety and a healthy environment.