Editorial: Overbearing GOP leaders stop rank-and-file legislators from taking a stand
Posted January 31
A CBC Editorial: Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017; Editorial# 8118
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
Unfortunately we have learned more about the North Carolina General Assembly from those legislators who refuse to say where they stand on repeal of House Bill 2, than those willing to stand up and be counted.
Barely a third of the 50-member Senate and 44 percent of the House of Representatives shared their positions on repeal when the Associated Press and eight newspapers asked. Overwhelmingly, those who refused to respond were Republicans.
It is a sad and shameful display of timidity and fear.
These Republicans are cowed by their leadership, particularly Senate boss Phil Berger, R-Rockingham and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland. They fear reprisal should they express opinions contrary to those dictated by their party caucus commanders.
For nearly a year the controversial law that legalizes discrimination has been the top issue in the state. Walk into any salon, barber shop, corner café or workout center locker room and it isn’t hard to find someone to share a point of view on the issue.
But ask the folks who couldn’t act fast enough to pass HB2 and are responsible for the mess it has made and what happens? They scatter like roaches at night when the kitchen light turns on. According to the article nearly 92 percent of the Republicans in the Senate and 83 percent in the House refused to say where they stood.
This isn’t hard or tricky. Either they’re for repeal or against it, no ifs ands or buts.
While HB2’s cost to the state continues to grow – in lost economic development opportunities, exit of lucrative athletic and entertainment events and perpetuation of discrimination -- legislative leaders stubbornly cling to the damaging and lost cause.
They fear, as Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper contends, if a clean and simple bill hits the Senate and House floors, there will be enough Republicans and Democrats coming together (imagine that!) to repeal HB2.
Berger’s already signaled to his caucus he won’t be allowing any straight and pure repeal votes on HB2: "I think the window for that compromise may not be open at this point. And I certainly don't believe the votes exist for an outright repeal without anything else," he said last week.
If he allows them to act independently and openly, legislators might get the idea that they don’t have to rely upon the leadership for every little matter – no matter how trivial -- they might need attended to.
It is a threat strongmen like Berger don’t take lightly.
So, in 2017 – 228 years after North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution – most Republican representatives in North Carolina’s legislature won’t tell the citizens who elected them where they stand on one of the top issues of the day.
Legislators who fear telling their constituents where they stand insult the sacred trust they’ve been granted in our democracy.
It is time these legislators showed more loyalty to the people who elected them than the power brokers.
If they aren’t willing to speak up and stand up, they should give up their seats and turn them over to others with backbone and concern for the citizens and state who will do the real work they were elected to do.