As we look ahead to 2016, here are seven quotes to remind you about several of the top stories of 2015.
“This is an age-old story of abuse of power and greed. It’s despicable.”
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, after former State Employees Association of North Carolina director Dana Cope’s pleaded guilty to fraud charges. Cope spent more than $500,000 of the organization’s money for personal expenses and was sentenced to 58 to 82 months in prison. SEANC, a major lobbying entity at the General Assembly, has about 55,000 members who work in state government. A big scandal.
“We should have made it bigger.”
Gov. Pat McCrory, on the $2 billion bond proposal for infrastructure projects at universities and community colleges, parks, the N.C. Zoo and National Guard and agricultural facilities. The referendum will appear on the March 15 primary ballot. McCrory, who describes himself as an Eisenhower Republican, hopes the bond package will help drive him to re-election in 2016. He wanted more money in the package but didn’t get it from the legislature.
“You can be either a big-dollar contributor or you can be a state contractor. You cannot do both.”
Jane Pinsky, of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, who urged legislation further limiting campaign donations from state vendors. Pay-to-play accusations hit both the governor’s office and state legislators in 2015. This area is ripe for further discussion next year.
“When I first came here, I had a long action list to accomplish, but the longer I’ve stayed, the longer the list grows. I’ll never get to the end of it.”
Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, an Apex Republican, after announcing he wouldn’t seek re-election to the House in 2016. Stam, the House speaker pro tempore, is among a slew of legislators not seeking re-election.
“Unified party government does not always mean unity. Right now the Republican Party, particularly in the legislature, is a very different party, even between the two chambers.”
Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College political science professor, on the long, contentious legislative session. During 2015, Republicans who control the House, Senate and governor’s mansion, fought among themselves more than with the Democrats.
“This is such a no-brainer. ... I cannot understand why we have so much trouble having our legislature understand it.”
Charles Creighton, founder of Colony Tire Corp. and a member of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina Board of Directors, about the need for economic incentives to compete for jobs with other states. The legislature approved new incentives programs and dollars in 2015, to the dismay of lawmakers on the far right and far left, but with strong approval from state commerce officials.
“Just because someone takes a job with the government does not mean that they give up their First Amendment rights.”
Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, urging senators to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of the so-called “magistrates bill,” which would allow state-employed magistrates to opt out of performing marriages because of sincerely held religious beliefs against same-sex marriages. The General Assembly overrode McCrory’s veto, and magistrates are allowed to recuse themselves from all marriage duties. But a lawsuit is challenging the law, and what became the biggest social issue of 2015 will make news again next year.
Patrick Gannon is editor of the Insider State Government News Service in Raleigh. Reach him at email@example.com.