Editorial: Legislative leaders hold shameful kangaroo court session

Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 -- The leadership's conduct at the Appropriations Committee meeting Thursday was an abuse of power and an embarrassment to the General Assembly and the citizens of North Carolina.

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CBC Editorial: Friday, Feb. 9, 2018; Editorial # 8267
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
If anyone needs an example of the kind of abusive, unprofessional and unbusiness-like manner in which the General Assembly operates these days, all they needed to do was witness the conduct Thursday afternoon of the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee meeting. In fact, don’t take our word for it. See for yourself right here.

It was an exercise in abuse by the legislative leadership and an embarrassment to the General Assembly and the citizens of North Carolina it represents.

First, the specific business that much of the public expected to be handled was the secretly-developed plan, announced just minutes before the meeting, to phase in and fund the legislature’s previously unfunded mandate to reduce class size in kindergarten through third grades in North Carolina public schools.

At the opening of the meeting, committee chair Sen. Harry Brown offered an introduction to Lee Lilly, who just five days earlier had become Gov. Roy Cooper’s director of legislative affairs. It seemed to be just an opportunity to say hello or “a minute or two to tell us a little bit about yourself.”

After that introduction and continuing for 45 minutes, Lilly was pelted and abused with a series of prepared and mostly leading questions from Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus; John Bell, R-Craven; Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly; Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union; Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union; Sen. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg; and others, about a memorandum of understanding that provides for $57 million from the developers of the pipeline to the governor’s office, to provide funding for environmental mitigation in the development of the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline.

Now there are many important and serious questions that are worth asking, exploring, and getting answers to, about the nature of the $57 million fund. Some of those questions were, in fact, raised by legislators Thursday. But unfortunately they didn’t seem to be concerned with getting full and accurate answers.

The time, place and manner of the grilling made for a disgusting display. The inquisitors were less concerned with answers than making veiled accusations, playing to their partisan base, the TV cameras and intimidating Lilly and the governor’s office.

Lilly said he was not told what might be discussed, was clearly caught off guard and unable to provide detailed and informed answers.

There were suggestions about the nature of the memorandum of understanding that may, or may not, be accurate. Legislators stated as matters of fact, that the funding was a “slush fund.” That the funding has been solicited. That the money would go to campaign contributors.

This was a kangaroo court. If legislators truly were concerned about the nature of the memorandum of understanding, they would have acted decently and inquired in a professional way.

Instead they ambushed a public servant, abused and unfairly impugned his integrity and that of his boss.

They owe Lilly, their fellow legislators and the voters who have given them the privilege to represent them, a full and sincere apology.

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