Government Lobbying Government Part 2

“No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session.” – Mark Twain.

The N.C. General Assembly is back in session. At least they were for a day. The assembly officially convened their 2015-2016 “long session” Jan. 14, then recessed for two weeks. In those two weeks, most of the legislators will hold fundraising events, just as they did in the days before the session opened. It’s never too early to start collecting money for the next election.

One of the first actions in the House of Representatives was a unanimous bipartisan vote to elect Rep. Tim Moore (R- Clevland) speaker. That will probably be the only unanimous bipartisan vote of the session.

Most of the members of the General Assembly were sworn in Jan. 14, all except for Rep. Edgar Starnes (R-Caldwell) who took the oath early – so he could resign before the session convened to accept a job with the state treasurer’s office. Starnes was slated to be the House majority leader.

“I am not a lobbyist,” Starnes said. “I am a legislative liaison.”

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Government Lobbying Government

Wake County will pay a former county manager and state legislature $100,000 to lobby in the General Assembly. The lobbyist, former state Sen. Richard Stevens, spent 16 years working for the county and ten years in the legislature. They’re also going to pay $110,000 for an “intergovernmental relations manager.”

In other words, our elected commissioners will use taxpayer money to pay a former elected official to convince current elected officials to give more taxpayer money – including money from people in other counties – to Wake. Does that seem right? Isn’t that what we elect commissioners to do?

This redistribution of your tax money within the governing class is a prime example of the revolving door politics pervading all levels of government.

One commissioner’s comments illustrate this illogical thinking. Jessica Holmes said that education was a priority, and wants the county to request a statewide raise in teacher pay. Why didn’t any commissioner suggest using the $200,00 for education? Or one of the other programs local official are always complaining don’t get sufficient funding from the state. They could even have done something really radical and returned the money to the hard-working people who earned it.

Note: This was published as a letter to the editor in the News & Observer. The newspaper agrees with me. Read their editorial which ran alongside the letter.