Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: 10 items N.C. legislators need to repeal, repair or replace

Posted July 21, 2017 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2017 11:08 a.m. EDT

The North Carolina Legislative Building on Feb. 17, 2015.

A CBC Editorial: Friday, July 21, 2017; Editorial # 8189
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

The secretive and careless manner in which legislative leaders slapped together the state budget quickly became clear in the omissions, mistakes and poorly thought-out elements of the $23 billion spending plan.

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Public education was neglected, the needs of the less fortunate were ignored, and opportunities to better serve the state’s citizens, protect its environment and expand economic opportunity were overlooked.

The General Assembly returns into session on Aug. 3. It has the chance to address legislation vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper as well as handle other business.

If recent past performance is any example, legislative leaders will meander off into unexplored and unchartered wilderness to expand their authority and stifle those who might challenge, or act independently, of it. We hope legislators will resist those temptations – which all too often have resulted in their ill-considered actions being declared illegal, improper and unconstitutional after costly legal battles.

Instead, they should look to fix the problems left in the wake of their careless work.

Here are 10 items they can address that will leave North Carolina better off – and actually enhance their reputations. Imagine that!

  • Take an open and non-partisan approach to the court’s orders to draw new legislative and congressional districts. Additionally, they should lay the groundwork for a non-partisan commission that will handle redistricting in the future.
  • Fully fund, as has been promised, the legislative mandate to cut public school class size in the lower grades. Local schools – and the people who work for them – have again been left in limbo and should not have to wait until next spring to know how to handle the budget and whether teachers will need to be dismissed or rehired. Fulfill this obligation to our children before giving more corporate tax cuts to those who don’t need it.
  • Restore $10 million that was irresponsibly cut from the state Department of Justice’s budget. Petty partisan politics in the legislature has become a threat to law and order – leaving the agency ill-equipped to protect the state’s interests in court and properly enforce the law.
  • Expand Medicaid while there’s still the chance. Politicians in Washington are recognizing they aren’t going to be able to, nor should they, repeal Obamacare. Continuing to deny health services to half-a-million needy North Carolinians is cruel and unnecessary.
  • Restore $1.8 million in cuts to the state’s legal aid funding. The cuts hurt poor people trying to deal with mortgage foreclosures, evictions, disability cases, veterans’ benefits and disaster relief. The cuts even hurt victims of domestic abuse who are trying to get restraining orders against abusers. Do these cuts really reflect legislators’ best intentions? Surely not.
  • Reverse the action legislators took to make several local school board elections partisan. There has been no grassroots movement to do this and it is unwise and unproductive – just leading to more unproductive legal battles – as the Lexington City School District is threatening now.
  • End the foolish and insulting impeachment effort aimed at Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. It is a needless diversion and waste of time. She’s done nothing to deserve such mistreatment. If any change is needed, the voters are more than capable of making that determination.
  • Repeal H17 – the law passed late last year that has set off the battle between the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. This is little more than another unnecessary power grab that wastes taxpayer money on legal bills.
  • Repeal the ideology-driven wind farm ban. State Sen. Harry Brown’s hot-air bluster is tarnishing one of the few economic development bright spots for North Carolina.
  • Look for money that’s been left on the table. In the hastily drafted final budget legislators forgot to include matching funds for a $9.2 million federal grant to protect military bases. Fix that omission and at the same time, think about how much more might have been overlooked, and go after it.

None of this is very heavy lifting. All it requires is shedding partisan blinders and focusing on what is best for North Carolina – not on what’s best for partisan lawmakers, a political party or special interest.

Wouldn’t that be original?

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