Gov. Roy Cooper, in his State of the State address, seemed to be trying to emphasize points to Republicans who control the General Assembly that it really is possible to find some common ground on which to move forward. That would be rather than: falling in to a pattern of Republicans passing tax cuts for the rich and business and shortchanging the middle class and public education and cutting environmental regulation and then having their actions vetoed by Cooper.
Whereupon, of course, they’d use their veto-proof majorities to override him. That kind of pattern will make for a long four years, and for a lot of stagnation in areas such as education, where North Carolinians could care less about the power struggles between the GOP-run legislature and the Democratic governor.
Cooper says he’d like to act to boost teacher salaries (so would Republicans), do more to combat drug abuse, opioids included (so would Republicans), bolster emergency funds (so would Republicans) and improve the juvenile justice system (so would Republicans). He also emphasized the need for the state to take a more active interest in improving health care for North Carolinians in need of it, even as there is a troubling rearrangement of the national health care situation after the Affordable Care Act had made a positive difference for many.
The governor, however, did not avoid the “elephant in the room,” namely HB2, the now-infamous “bathroom bill” that curbed anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community and made North Carolina a target of enlightened businesses and organizations nationwide. They’ve proved costly enemies: the NCAA and ACC have nixed championships in North Carolina, likewise the National Basketball Association and its All-Star Game, concerts and college conferences, and perhaps most damaging, prospects for new business and jobs have been lost.
All this because Republicans have refused to pass a simple, outright repeal of HB2. Cooper said if they would do so, he would sign it on the same day.
Republicans replied to Cooper through their leader, Phil Berger, president pro tem of the state Senate, but Berger’s response was predictable and uninspiring, knocking the governor and bragging about tax cuts and economic progress under the GOP’s leadership.
GOP leaders, if they set up a four-year stalemate, will find the public will grow weary of that. The people signaled, in electing Cooper over a Republican incumbent in a year when Donald Trump won North Carolina and the presidency, that they wanted some energetic leadership looking to do things for all North Carolinians and to repair the state’s image. Berger and his GOP lawmakers can join those efforts and still retain their power.