Short session not short enough

The annual assault on civil liberties, property rights and economic freedom is over in North Carolina, at least for this year. The General Assembly has adjourned. Hopefully some participants in the attack will become casualties in November.

Probably not enough to make a difference. Even if Republicans win control of either house, there simply will be new generals leading the next wave of the onslaught on freedom.

The only real possibility that the radical change needed can begin when the legislature returns in January is if one or more Libertarians are elected. Otherwise, it’ll be business as usual.

The so-called short session was short but not short enough to avoid further infringements on our rights. The legislators made it legal for police to forcibly take a DNA sample from people arrested for some felonies. Although news reports characterize the list as “violent” crimes it includes cyberstalking, burglary and “breaking or entering a place of religious worship,” none of which are necessarily violent offenses. That last one is curious. Be careful the next time you go to church.

Also unreported is that the bill allows police to force a DNA sample from anyone arrested for attempting, soliciting, conspiring or “aiding and abetting” someone else to commit any of the felonies listed. Be careful who you associate with.

The saddest thing about this bill is that only one senator, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a Carrboro Democrat, voted against it, saying it “is trampling on that presumption of innocence.” There’s nothing in the bill that addresses the very long backlog of DNA samples already languishing in the State Bureau of Investigation lab.

Legislators fought hard to protect two of their favorite boondoggles: the state ABC system and the lottery. Lobbyists succeeded in emasculating an ABC reform bill and outlawing video poker. So the State maintains its monopoly on alcohol and gambling.

Lawmakers also caved into pressure from the powerful state employees union to water-down a bill that would have made the employment and disciplinary action records of state workers more open to the public. North Carolina still ranks among the states with the most secretive personnel law.

Much of the debate in this session centered on government ethics. That phrase has become North Carolina’s contribution to a list of classic oxymorons, joining such standards as military intelligence, jumbo shrimp, and objective opinion.

One of the problems legislators allegedly attempted to fix was the “revolving door.” This is the process where legislators who leave office get to continue to profit from their “public service” (another oxymoron) by shystering for a lobbyist group. Under current law, former lawmakers must wait six-months before they can start such work. A proposed reform would have extended that to one year. In other words, the door will still revolve, only it will go around slower.

That idea, or course, was defeated. “It seems to me six months is a reasonable cooling off period,” said Sen. Richard Stevens, a Cary Republican. “We’re chilling a person’s ability to make a living.” Stevens and his cohorts don’t seem to mind the chilling effect on the jobs of common folk when they grant special treatment to selected businesses.

Here’s a radical idea that will solve the problem. Nail the door shut. Anyone who serves as a state legislator shouldn’t ever work for a lobbyist, or for any group that does business with the state for that matter. Public service is supposed to be exactly that, a service.

If you choose to be a public servant, you should not profit from that choice. It is an old cliché, but public service is a public trust. If you are not willing to make that choice don’t seek elected office.

Claims that this would deprive someone of their livelihood are ludicrous. There is no right to profit at the taxpayers expense. Former legislators should have to work for a living at a real job, just like the rest of us. Maybe if they knew they would eventually suffer from the effects of the bad laws they pass, they wouldn’t pass them in the first place.