Editorial: N.C. legislature sets foundation for 21st century inquisition
Posted June 30
A CBC Editorial: Friday, June 30, 2017; Editorial # 8180
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
The North Carolina General Assembly isn’t a playground. Adult supervision shouldn’t be required.
But for anyone witnessing the House of Representatives Rules Committee on Wednesday, they’d be forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled into Camp Runamuck.
In the final days of the legislative session – when there should be a priority on getting urgent and critical business done – Committee Chair David Lewis gave a grandstanding soap box to state Rep. Chris Millis. He’s a three-term legislator from Pender County who prides himself on being one of the youngest members of the legislature. His maturity matches his boast.
There was Millis, posturing at his earnest and indignant best, claiming he had "clear evidence of malfeasance" by Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. He claimed she’d illegally granted notary commissions to "hundreds of unqualified aliens.” He continued: “It is the responsibility of this legislative body, per Article IV of the State Constitution, to initiate the process of impeachment."
It was a rehash of campaign season claims initially made by Michael LaPaglia, Marshall’s unsuccessful Republican rival in the November 2016 election. Last March, Millis held a news conference demanding that Marshall resign and threatened to seek a resolution for impeachment. Nothing happened until, with little notice, there was the ambush Wednesday in the Rules Committee.
There are many, many questions about Millis’s reckless, abusive behavior. Marshall has shown abundant patience, openness and transparency – attributes sorely lacking among the leadership in the General Assembly -- in dealing with all this. In response to Millis February demand for records concerning notary public license applications, Marshall readily obliged, providing more 1,700 pages of information.
Millis, an engineer, says his review showed that “the secretary has commissioned more than 320 alien notaries who can single-handedly validate absentee ballots." The State Auditor and state Justice Department also reviewed the practice, according to Marshall’s office, and found her administration of the validations to be appropriate and within state and federal guidelines.
So, if Millis suspected laws were broken, why hasn’t this been turned over to a prosecutor or state agency, like the SBI, for investigation? Why all the silence after his theatrical March news conference until this week?
The answer is abundantly clear. Millis and his enablers in the General Assembly like Lewis and House Speaker Tim Moore, are more interested in sophomoric, hyper-partisan theatrics than dealing seriously with making North Carolina a better place.
It has been 147 years since a North Carolina statewide officeholder has been impeached. It is a serious matter. The attacks on Secretary of State Marshall are ill-considered, blindly partisan and little more than a thinly veiled effort to steal an election the Republicans didn’t win at the ballot box.
Legislators backing this shameful exercise in partisanship-gone-wild are exhibit #1 of abuse of position, lack of respect for the privilege voters have extended and a demonstration of ignorance and disdain for the integrity of government.
The Rules Committee voted 20-10, strictly along party lines, to send the impeachment resolution to the full House, for formal introduction and further action. The bill was formally returned to the committee Thursday.
By this vote alone, none of those who backed the measure deserve the honor of returning to the General Assembly after the next election. Voters should express that view in no uncertain terms.
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Along with Lewis and Millis, voters should send these others Republicans on the House Rules Committee out to retirement: Ted Davis, New Hanover County; Sarah Stevens, Surry County; John Szoka, Cumberland County; John Torbett, Gaston County; John Bell, Craven County; John Blust, Guilford County; James Boles, Moore County; William Brawley, Mecklenburg County; Dana Bumgarner, Gaston County; Justin Burr, Stanly County; Nelson Dollar, Wake County; Andy Dulin, Mecklenburg County; John Fraley, Iredell County; John Hardister, Guilford County; Kelly Hastings, Cleveland County; Linda Johnson, Cabarrus County; Susan Martin, Pitt County; Chuck McGrady, Henderson County; Stephen Ross, Alamance County; Jason Saine, Lincoln County; and John Sauls, Lee County.