If the State is going to kill people, it must be open about it

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.

Legislators should uphold governor’s vetoes

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.

Keeping North Carolina a one-party state

“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.

Continue reading »

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.

Republicans ignore state constitution and the law

It took me two tries, but I finally got Rep. Nelson Dollar, through his legislative assistance, to admit that the General Assembly has not complied with the law requiring them to pass a budget by June 30. Or at least I think I have.

In my first e-mail to Mr. Dollar I asked: The General Assembly has not yet passed the state budget. Am I correct in believing that state law requires you to pass a budget by June 30? Or is that a self-imposed deadline? Has the GA failed to pass a budget by June 30 before?

The answer from Candace Slate, Legislative Assistant was:

“Thank you for your e-mail. A Continuing Resolution was passed HB336 allowing for the budget passage to July 31, 2013. This type of Resolution has occurred many times over the years. This Resolution allows for the State Budget Director to continue the expenditures for the operation of government until the new budget is passed.

To which I replied: Thanks for your prompt reply. I know that is what the General Assembly has done. But my question is, is there a state statute or GA policy that requires the budget to be passed by June 30, since the state’s fiscal year starts July 1. Funding state government operation with a continuing resolution, no matter how temporary, does not seem to me to be the most efficient way to run things.

And the final answer was: “This is required under the State Budget Act and was sent to me by our Fiscal Research staff: § 143C-5-4. Enactment deadline. The General Assembly shall enact the Current Operations Appropriations Act by June 15 of odd-numbered years and by June 30 of even-numbered years in which a Current Operations Appropriations Act is enacted. (2006-203, s. 3.)

So, I think he’s admitting that the GA did not comply with the statute. Unless they consider a continuing resolution a “current operations appropriations act.”

However, I must give Representative Dollar credit for promptly responding to my constituent queries. As this took less than three hours, and he’s responded to previous queries just as promptly.

Election law bills filed in the General Assembly

In the first two days of the N.C. General Assembly, four election law bills were introduced. A controversial voter ID bill was not among, even though House Speaker Thom Tillis listed it as part of the Republican Party’s agenda. The GOP is expected to use its veto-proof majority in both house to push the bill rapidly through the legislature.

Free the Vote NC, a ballot access reform group, is expected to have a bill ready in the next few weeks which would dramatically lower the barriers for third parties and independent candidates to get on the ballot. It will be similar to a bill which passed the House last session, but failed in the Senate.

Continue reading »

House votes to lower N.C. ballot access barriers

In a bipartisan 67-50 vote, the state House of Representatives approved a bill to dramatically lower the threshold for a new political party to gain and maintain ballot access in North Carolina. The bill lowers the number of signatures a new party must obtain to 0.25 percent of registered voters. That party could then retain ballot status by getting 0.25 percent of the votes for president, governor or any council of state office, whichever is lower.

Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-Lenoir) introduced H.B. 32, the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011, with both Republicans and Democrats as primary sponsors. “There’s a wide-variety of membership in support of this bill who have come together for the idea that it is too difficult under present law for those citizens who want to create a small party to get on the ballot,” said Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham), a primary sponsor.

The House vote reflected bipartisan support with 38 Democrats and 29 Republicans voting in favor. The measure also has backing from a broad spectrum of groups from across the political spectrum, including the Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties, Democracy NC, the John Locke Foundation and the N.C. League of Women Voters.

“When political parties and public policy groups with such divergent views unite in a common cause it clearly attests to the fact that ballot access reform is not a partisan or special-interest group issue, but a question of fundamental freedom that transcends political and ideological differences,” said Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Edgecombe, Wilson), another primary sponsor.

Continue reading »

Municipal broadband bill creates ‘faux market’ not free market

Gov. Beverly Perdue should have vetoed a bill that eliminated financial advantages municipalities had in setting up broadband service, a Libertarian Party of North Carolina spokesman said Friday.

“The governor should have vetoed this blatant intrusion into the free market and city business,” said Matt Drew, state party chair. While Libertarians do not believe municipalities should be in the business of providing broadband service, he said this bill does not create a “level-playing field” for private competition as supporters claim.

“The playing field is already tilted heavily, in the other direction — in favor of big service providers such as Time Warner Cable,” Drew said. “Supporters of this bill want to create a ‘faux market’ rather than a free market.”

“In a faux market, laws and regulations are written by and lobbied for by large incumbent corporations, with the intent of suppressing competition and protecting their market position,” Drew explained. “This bill is intended to protect these large incumbent service providers from city-owned network competition, closing a previously unnoticed gap in their market position defenses.”

Continue reading »

Annexation reform bill passes House

The state House passed an historic and sweeping annexation reform bill, culminating years of work by grassroots groups seeking to have their rights restored.

“This is one big step in an historic direction toward the restoration of the rights of property owners in city-initiated annexation,” said Cathy Heath, director of the StopNCAnnexation Coaliton. “When the Senate passes this bill, it will be a momentous occasion in North Carolina.”

H.B. 845 passed by an overwhelming vote of 107-9. The North Carolina League of Municipalities, a taxpayer-funded lobbying organization for muncipal governments, which for years has thrawted any annexation law reform did not actively oppose the bill. Reform supporters believe that is because the NCLM feared that if this reform did not pass, another bill putting an moratorium on all forced annexations would.

Heath said the success of this seven year effort shows that when enough people come together for a common cause and can commit to however long it takes, they can accomplish good things. The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pass it quickly.

Continue reading »

‘Gerrymandering’ film airs May 25

North Carolinians for Redistricting Reform will sponsor a free screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “Gerrymandering” and an inside look at the significant flaws in our current redistricting process. The screening will be Wednesday, May 25, at 7 p.m. at the Galaxy Cinema, 770 Cary Towne Blvd, Cary.

This entertaining and engaging film looks at the abuse of power that too often occurs when you have politicians drawing their own district lines and choosing their own voters. Following the movie, a panel of experts will lead a discussion on redistricting and its implications here in North Carolina, as well as take questions from the audience.

If you have any questions, please email Brent Laurenz at laurenz@nccve.org or call 919-783-8811. For more information and to see a preview of the film, go here.