Many times weve heard it explained why North Carolina chooses so many of its top officials at the polls. Those royal governors they were such bullies that when the state was formed and a constitution written, lawmakers decided to put future chief executives on a short leash indeed.
The governor is now just one of 10 elected officials running things in the executive branch. Yes, he or she appoints a cabinet made up of several department heads departments such as Transportation, Revenue and Correction. But several other vital government functions are overseen by bosses elected independently. While cooperation with the governor might suit them, nothing requires it.
Debate over North Carolinas long ballot can have an abstract, political science feel. But The N&Os Ghost Workers series has shown how the states governmental structure hinders a coordinated response to the problem of employers failure to obtain proper workers compensation insurance.
Two agencies that could help untangle the mess, the Department of Labor and the Department of Insurance, are headed by commissioners who answer only to the voters at large.
Gov. Beverly Perdue has no leverage other than persuasion to try to get those departments to be more aggressive in cracking down on so-called ghost insurance policies that leave workers uncovered. In the case of insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin, Perdue could appeal to him as a fellow Democrat. As for Cherie Berry, the Republican labor commissioner, Perdue might have better luck convincing the statue of George Washington outside her office to take a stroll down Fayetteville Street.
Agencies directly or indirectly under the governor, such as the Commerce Department and the Industrial Commission, also can do more to ensure compliance with workers comp insurance rules. And the governor can light a fire under them if they dont. If Perdue or her successor appointed the labor and insurance chiefs common practice in many other states those two worthies also could feel the well-deserved flames.