With recent actions, NC legislators have broken trust

July 4, 2013 

The state Senate’s sneak vote to limit access to abortion in North Carolina revives an issue that 40 years after Roe v. Wade remains as resilient as it is divisive. But let’s set aside for a moment the seemingly irreconcilable views on abortion and take up a subject on which all should agree – honesty in government.

Regardless of the merits of regulating abortion, the Senate’s action was dishonest. The slew of new rules that would effectively close virtually all of the state’s abortion clinics was wrapped in a House Bill 695, a measure ostensibly banning the use of foreign law in legal proceedings. The public was not properly notified about the revised content. The vote was rushed late on a Tuesday and then affirmed by a vote Wednesday on the eve of the long July 4th holiday.

A woman who yelled “shame on you” from the Senate gallery Wednesday was arrested. But it was the leaders of the Republican Senate majority who had flouted the law through an act of legislative deception. And it’s an offense made worse by a Republican pattern of dismissing its obligations to the public trust.

Convening after midnight

Republican legislative leaders first showed their contempt for public accountability with their notorious post-midnight session on January 5, 2012. The fast move came after Perdue vetoed a bill that blocked the North Carolina Association of Educators from collecting dues from teachers’ paychecks through payroll deduction. The Senate successfully overrode the veto, but the House failed.

The House was meeting for a special session limited to an override vote on Perdue’s veto of a bill gutting the Racial Justice Act. But House leaders with scant notice called for a new session at 12:45 a.m. – the first time in modern history lawmakers started a different session after midnight. Then the House took up and overrode the dues bill veto. The successful override vote came in part because several Democrats were absent due to illness or outside obligations. The law was later ruled to be an unconstitutional act of retribution against one group.

Mistake makes law

In July of 2012, the House Speaker refused to let a mistaken vote be recast in a vote to override Perdue’s veto of a bill to allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in North Carolina.

State Rep. Becky Carney, (D-Mecklenburg), mistakenly voted in favor of the override and immediately realized her error. Speaker Thom Tillis would not let her change her vote. The wrong vote made the difference in making the bill law, opening the way for a drilling practice for natural gas that is widely opposed and actually lacked sufficient legislative support to be allowed.

Now GOP Senate leaders have passed a sweeping bill on abortion under an unrelated title with a surprise vote.

These votes become part of the GOP’s more mundane political twists on the truth: Voter ID is about the integrity of elections. Cutting off extended federal unemployment benefits is intended to help people find work. Shifting the tax burden downward is about fairness. The Moral Monday protestors are “outsiders.”

And then there’s this one: The new Republican leadership is cleaning up the misdeeds and cronyism of the Democratic era. This distortion, oddly enough, was the opening to the governor’s otherwise welcome rebuke of the Senate’s skulduggery on House Bill 695.

“When the Democrats were in power, this is the way they did business,” McCrory said in a statement. “It was not right then and it is not right now. Regardless of what party is in charge or what important issue is being discussed, the process must be appropriate and thorough.”

On this sentiment, we agree. Now may such honesty become, belatedly, the GOP’s policy.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service