The following editorial appeared in the Greensboro
News & Record:
We thought the state legislature convened in Raleigh.
Last week, it apparently met in Fantasy Land.
How else to explain the House Judiciary I committee debating for an hour whether North Carolina should join the call for a “Convention of the States” to discuss amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would limit the federal government’s power?
“I think there is a wide agreement among Americans that we need to place some constraints on the federal government,” said Rep. Bert Jones, the Reidsville Republican who sponsored House Bill 321, one of two bills calling for such a convention. “Are we going to depend on Congress to say, ‘It’s time to limit ourselves’?”
The convention would reconsider amendments involving term limits for Congress, fiscal restraints and limits on “the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.” “I look at this as an intervention of the states, just as if you have a drug-addled family member,” Jones said, sounding proud as punch.
That’s rich. Even as state lawmakers overreach with constant meddling into the affairs of cities and counties – changing the makeup of local boards and councils, including Greensboro’s, and making partisan power grabs for airports and water authorities – the political pot has the gall to call the kettle black and grouse about “federal overreach.”
It might have been April 1, but Jones wasn’t joking. Yet he had to be squinting hard not to see this irony: It was Jones who was behind the bill that would shrink the Rockingham County school board and make its elections partisan. It passed only a day before Jones’ complaints about federal meddling. “I think that’s what the people of my county would like,” Jones said. But they only get to vote on whether to reduce the size of the school board. They’ll have no say on the partisan elections part.
Jones and his colleagues will decide that for “the people” Jones refers to with faux reverence. Nevermind that partisan school board elections, which already have been foisted on Guilford County with little notice or public input, are inherently unfair. That’s because they disenfranchise the fastest-growing segment of North Carolina voters, the unaffiliated, by making it nearly impossible for an unaffiliated candidate to run, much less actually win a school board race. You’d think Jones would appreciate that since he ran as an unaffiliated candidate when he was first elected to the House in 2010.
Then there’s the question of priorities. As in Guilford, the economy in Rockingham County is struggling, and, from toilet paper to textbooks, its public schools are facing deep cuts. “I feel like I need a black coat and a sickle,” Rockingham Schools Superintendent Rodney Shotwell has said of the district’s predicted $4.1 million shortfall in the coming year – thanks in part to insufficient state funding.
So, naturally, the school board needs pruning and partisanship. Jones’ bill seems assured of approval in the Senate; then Jones can focus on constitutional conventions. The sheer nerve of it all is downright surreal. And indefensible. As our Republican governor, Pat McCrory, said recently: “We have some legislators who also want to be mayors and city councilmen. … If someone wants to change the form of government in one of your cities, then go run for city council, for mayor.”
And if someone wants to end needless tinkering by outside forces, the best place to start is in Raleigh.
Tribune Content Agency