“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
– H. L. Mencken
You can see this tactic at work in the faux controversy over House Bill 2. Former NC Gov. Jim Martin, a Republican, made some cogent observations on the issue in a recent News & Observer op-ed “HB 2: Who Did This to Us? We Did.”
He writes that “some young people have great difficulty dealing with their anatomy and hormones, in ways most of us could never begin to understand..”
On the other hand, he says “some people have had terrible experiences with sexual predators, and are fearful of laws that could make it easier for one to slip into girls’ locker rooms.”
But neither side wants to listen to the other. Nor do they need to, because Democrats and Republicans are safely ensconced in gerrymandered districts and have no need to appeal to moderates who have fled their respective parties.
Read Martin’s op-ed here.
North Carolina will continue its tradition of unopposed elections in 2016. Seventy-two General Assembly candidates were either “elected” at the close of filing Dec. 21 or will be elected in the March primary. So in November nearly half of North Carolina voters will no choice about who represents them in Raleigh.
While it’s true gerrymandering is a cause, there’s another more significant reason – highly restrictive ballot access laws. It’s very difficult for a party – other than the Democrats or Republicans – to get on the ballot. It’s nearly impossible for independent candidates to do so.
These high barriers to ballot access thus effectively disenfranchise nearly a third of North Carolina voters, the unaffiliated, the fastest growing voter block.
Most voters don’t realize how the establishment parties manipulate the system through gerrymandering and restrictive ballot access. To qualify for the ballot a “new” party must collect in excess of 90,000 signatures. To run for statewide office without a party label you must hurdle the same barrier. Anyone who wants to challenge an unopposed incumbent in a legislative district or local office, needs to collect anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 signatures from registered voters.
It’s not gerrymandering, voter IDs, or early voting limitations that disenfranchises NC voters. It’s our ballot access lockout.
It’s becoming standard operating procedure for the Republican-controlled legislature to ram bills through with little public notice or debate. Their latest exercise in oligarchical power is House Bill 774, with the factious title Restore Proper Justice Act.
The bill removes safeguards, removes requirements for public rule-making processes, allows for the state to withhold basic information about the execution drugs and protocols, and no longer requires doctors to be present. This will make it more likely executions will be botched, as has happened in other states.
North Carolina is not a democracy. It’s not even a republic. It is becoming an oligarchy, and not a very good one at that.
Rep. Leo Daughtry says the bill is not about the death penalty. He’s right. But it is about government integrity, transparency and openness. It is about the people’s right to know.
Even if you believe in state-sanctioned executions, it is a dangerous activity. Secrecy further increases the risk by hiding from the public information critical to ensuring an execution is carried out properly. Executing a person is one of the most serious actions the state can take. The process should be open and transparent. No government program should operate in secret.
For the record, the Libertarian Party of North Carolina believes state-sanctioned revenge never serves the cause of justice and therefore opposes execution of prisoners.
For the seventh time in 10 years, the General Assembly will be derelict in its duty to fulfill a major constitutional responsibility. The new fiscal year will begin without the legislature passing a state budget.
It’s no wonder North Carolinians have such a low opinion of government. Even though both houses and the governorship are controlled by the same party, they cannot complete this most basic government function. Although in session for six months, they’ve waited until the last minute to consider this important issue.
Not only were the competing budgets drafted in secret by a small, closed group of legislators, lobbyists and special interests group agents, these same people are now meeting behind closed doors to cut deals for a final budget. There’s nothing fair, impartial, or reasonable, and certainly not democratic, about this process.
Perhaps if legislators actually read the state constitution they’ve taken an oath to uphold this problem wouldn’t come up every year. Under that charter, the governor is responsible for drafting the budget. The state House and Senate can review it and make changes, and must approve it. But the fundamental responsibility rests with the governor.
There’s no need at all for both houses to separately, and secretly, draft their own budgets – other than to score political points and provide cover for political favors.
The state can save up to $383 million in its budget if it uses a spending technique proposed by the John Locke Foundation in their latest Spotlight report. The technique is called “reverse logrolling.”
“Lawmakers can achieve these additional savings by using a technique called ‘reverse logrolling,'” “It flips traditional budget logrolling on its head,” said Sarah Curry, JLF Director of Fiscal Policy Studies, the report author. Logrolling is a budget practice in which negotiators for both legislative chambers agree to accept higher spending levels for each chamber’s budget priorities.
“This practice often results in a poor outcome for average citizens, as lower-priority or so-called ‘pork-barrel’ items are funded and mediocre legislation enacted,” Curry said.
Budget negotiators should take the opposite approach, Curry said in a press release. “Rather than one set of budget negotiators accepting particular programs or higher levels of spending from their counterparts, with the expectation that those counterparts will do the same, legislators should agree to accept the lower spending numbers for each departmental budget,” she said. “After all, a majority in at least one chamber already has decided that the lower spending figure will satisfy citizens’ needs under current budgetary constraints.”
She outlines how these savings can be achieved in the report, included a spreadsheet of potential department-by-department savings.
This is a commendable effort, which Libertarians support. The greatest obstacle we see is to get Republican and Democratic legislators to kick their spending habit.
JLF Press Release
JLF Spotlight Report
by Brian Irving
Vice Chair, Libertarian Party of North Carolina
We commend Gov. Pat McCrory for courageously vetoing both Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 405 and we hope a sufficient number of state legislators have the equal courage to sustain these vetoes.
HB 405 was called the Property Protection Act, but it was clearly intended to provide cover for business owners who allowed unsafe or inhumane conditions in their businesses, and to punish anyone who took a job to expose the practices.
SB 2, with the equally disingenuous title Magistrates Recusal for Civil Ceremonies, would allow magistrates to refuse to do a job they were hired for, under the cover of claiming “any sincerely held religious objections.”
Both bills passed with bipartisan support, another proof that when it comes to expanding government power at the expense of individual liberty, both Republicans and Democrats find common ground.
Nor was either bill the result of any grassroots effort. They were pushed through a sham legislative “process” by those select few legislators and special interest groups who hold the real power in the General Assembly. What little debate there was consisted of straw-man arguments promulgated on both sides of the issue.
In short, a demonstration of everything that’s corrupt and dysfunctional in our legislative process.
The recent violence in Ferguson, Mo. and Baltimore may be setting the stage for another summer of civil unrest, similar to 1968, a candidate for the Libertarian nomination for N.C. governor said in a statement.
While Ken Fortenberry, a former investigative journalist and newspaper editor, condemned the violence he said our nation and leaders have learned nothing from the past.
“Instead of solving the problems of nearly 50 years ago, they have created laws and policies that have woven those very same problems into the fabric of our social, economic and political system,” he said.
“As a teen-ager in the summer of 1968, I watched the evening TV news in horror and read the morning headlines in shock as our nation seemed to be coming apart at the seams,” he recalled. Back then he said rioting mobs were angered by an unwinnable war in Vietnam, joblessness, ugly racial discrimination, and police who took the law into their own hands and injured and killed at whim.
Fortenberry said the Ferguson and Baltimore unrest is similar. Politicians have created an weak and unsustainable national quilt, “where the fibers of the citizenry itself are disconnected instead of bound together for the common good.”
“There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters”― Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster could have been talking about the Republican majority in the 2015 N.C. General Assembly. Not only do they mean to govern, they also mean to insure that only they can govern. Having the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation isn’t enough. Nor is gerrymandering electoral districts to guarantee Republican victories.
The Republicans want to make GOP stand for Grand Only Party. They’re perfectly content with keeping North Carolina a one-party state, as it was for many years under the Democrats. They just want it to be their party. Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev would be proud.
By Ken Fortenberry
I nearly fell asleep during Gov. Pat McCrory’s annual State of the State address tonight as he used the same worn-out platitudes that governors of both major political parties have used for years. More than an hour into his speech, I was still waiting for him talk about the critical need to reduce the size of our bloated state government and to protect the ever-declining freedoms of our citizens.
Yes, North Carolina is a wonderful place to live. Yes, we face many challenges (who doesn’t?). Yes, our people are resilient, hard-working and neighborly, but I yearned for him to tell us something new, and more importantly, to outline a realistic, financially-and-constitutionally-sound plan to make state government more responsive, more accountable and more efficient.
Instead the governor wants to spend more, tax more and put his signature on more laws.
You could have put any former governor’s face on Gov. McCrory’s body and the message would have been the same: more government, less freedom. One minute he sounded like a Republican, the next like a Democrat.
After hearing his address, I must conclude that the State of the State is status quo, and that means North Carolina is going backwards instead of forward.
“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.”