Rather than address North Carolina’s real problems, the new GOP majority has focused on passing bills that are tied to a national far right agenda. Millions of dollars in taxpayer money has been wasted on a host of bills that satisfy their extremist base but attack North Carolina’s core strengths: our public education system, our natural resources and our ability to respect one another’s rights.
Using the budget as an excuse, they made deep cuts in programs opposed by the far right, passed bills to give the government control over our personal lives, grossly manipulated voting district maps to their advantage and tried to limit people’s basic voting rights. Veering far from the middle, they also repeatedly cut off debate, used parliamentarian maneuvers to keep defeated bills alive, refused to compromise with opponents and repeatedly ignored the need for separation of church and state. Some of their bills were already being challenged in courts in other states, but they moved ahead anyway — exposing NC taxpayers to what could be substantial legal expenses.
Here are the details of what they are doing:
Crippling public education
The GOP is out of tune with the rest of North Carolina when it comes to public education. In the Tar Heel State, we value our kids, our schools and our teachers — but Republican lawmakers have treated them with disdain. This summer, House Speaker Thom Tillis said about teachers: “They don’t care about kids. They don’t care about classrooms. They only care about their jobs and their pensions.” Lawmakers then slashed school budgets, forcing the layoffs of 1,800 teachers and teacher assistants after repeatedly promising North Carolina that classroom staff would be protected.
Ignoring the need for jobs
The new Republican majority said job creation was a priority, but so far they have been out to lunch on the one issue North Carolinians think is most important. Five “special sessions” at the cost of $50,000 a day have been dedicated to divisive social and political issues — without a single step taken toward creating jobs.
Ignoring the warning of experts
Budget writers ignored repeated warnings by experts when drafting the Medicaid provisions of the state budget. Dismissing their warnings out of hand, they let their far right ideology outweigh the public good. Now the state Medicaid program is left with a huge funding hole as predicted and lawmakers are wasting time trying to pin the blame on someone else.
Inventing problems instead of addressing real ones
Instead of talking jobs and the economy, lawmakers inexplicably devoted weeks to talking out of the blue about “voter fraud” and the need for million-dollar solutions to this non-existent problem. Without any evidence of voter fraud, why do Republicans continue to push to override the Governor’s veto of the Voter ID Bill? Because it would leave hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians out in left field and unable to vote, specifically, North Carolinians like students, poor people and people of color — all groups that tend not to vote Republican.
Using our state as a chess piece in the struggle for national power
Because the Voter ID bill and many others they have proposed for North Carolina are part of a national far right movement. The wording of our bills is remarkably similar to those filed by their far right peers in other states. Our lawmakers were told to file those bills by the people who bankroll their campaigns and they did — allowing North Carolina’s policies to be dictated by a small group of outsiders who do not even live in our state.
Wasting taxpayer money on unneeded social legislation
The marriage discrimination amendment passed by right wing conservative is not only out of place in our state constitution, it is completely unnecessary. Constitutional amendments should be used to guarantee rights, not take them away.
Recklessly pushing dangerous policies for special interests
The fever to “drill, baby, drill,” got out of hand quickly in this General Assembly, steamrolling over both common sense and public opposition. Lawmakers rushed a bill through to allow fracking in North Carolina even though extremely serious questions remain about groundwater contamination, earthquakes and other environmental concerns caused by this largely untested method of drilling for residuals of natural gas. House leaders are currently trying to override the Governor’s veto of their bill to allow fracking, even ignoring pleas just to slow down until more is known about its side effects.
Intentionally lying to the public
Lawmakers out-and-out lied about the Racial Justice Act when they attempted to overturn it, saying it would allow murderers on Death Row to go free (not true!). They did this solely to pander to their extreme far right base. The most respected legal experts in our state have said time-and-again that the bill only allows murderers whose death sentences were driven by racial prejudice to have their sentences converted to life in prison without parole – but GOP lawmakers continue to lie to their constituents about the Act.
Hurting kids to satisfy their anti-public school base
A 20% GOP-led budget cut to the NC Pre-K program left 6,300 at-risk 4-year-olds on waiting lists, even after the courts ruled that lawmakers needed to restore the program. By refusing to act on Gov. Perdue’s plan and Judge Manning’s Leandro case–based ruling, GOP lawmakers left these kids out of time. They will not be prepared before they start kindergarten next year.
Rolling back the rights of NC’s women
The anti-woman, anti-choice bill passed by the legislature this past session shows an out-of-date attitude toward women, as does their unconstitutional refusal to issue an official pro-choice state license plate after authorizing a pro-life one. North Carolina’s abortion law is now among the most restrictive in the country and particularly disrespectful to women – it literally tells doctors what to say to their patients, forces women to watch ultrasounds and requires them to sign an affidavit if they choose to avert their eyes. Worse, lawmakers passed both of these bills knowing that similar laws were already being challenged in courts in other states – meaning they knowingly and willingly exposed North Carolina to hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded legal bills in order to make an ideological, religious-based point.
Showing no recognition of anyone’s needs but their own
Speaker Thom Tillis was clearly out of step with his constituents when he gave his own staff fat raises right after cutting teacher salaries statewide. Some staffers received raises equaling tens of thousands of dollars. Tillis only curtailed the raises after he got called out for it in the media.
Refusing to allow debate on their extremist bills
The NC House Majority has ruled debate to be out of order. So far this year, the House has cut off debate 36 times by using the parliamentary maneuver known as “calling to question.” In contrast, during the tenure of the House’s prior leadership, debate was cut off only seven times in fours years.
Operating in secret, behind closed doors and in the dark
Our suddenly out of sight lawmakers have made a mockery of their promises to be more open and transparent. They have conducted business repeatedly behind closed doors, filed bills written by secret groups in other states, called post-midnight legislative sessions when opponents were too ill to show and crippled the ethics laws they promised the enact if elected. Now they are attacking existing ethics laws even as they continue to plot the fate of our state in secret.
Completely subverting the redistricting process
Trying to consolidate their power, legislative Republicans are taking elections out of our hands by redrawing legislative districts to suit their interests. It’s a case of elected officials choosing their voters, not voters choosing their officials — on steroids. Their machinations go far beyond what their opponents did ten years ago. They used maps drawn by a man who does not even live in our state and who specializes in carving out districts that give the GOP the most power. The districts have no correlation to city or county boundaries and, in some cases, the sanctity of the ballot is threatened – the votes of people in tiny corners of some fantastically-drawn districts will be easily deduced, violating those voters’ constitutional rights.
Acting enraged and offended when their power is questioned
NC House Speaker Thom Tillis appears to be out of sorts after newspapers dared to criticize his party’s unconstitutional post-midnight legislative session held on January 5th. He announced on Facebook he was canceling his subscription to the Charlotte Observer, calling it “roadkill,” after an editorial said the legislature was acting unethically. Soon after, newspaper after newspaper in the state condemned the GOP’s actions, yet Tillis and his followers continue to insist they did nothing wrong. Tillis even told the Charlotte Observer he’d do it again if needed.
No boundaries. No self-awareness. No intention of stopping. No respect for other viewpoints – our state’s leadership is out-of-control. Only the people of North Carolina can stop them now.