I wrote a column this week for the Salisbury Post, where I lauded the bipartisan efforts of the General Assembly and Attorney General Josh Stein in pushing the Survivor Act. Briefly, the act would provide millions of dollars to continue testing the embarrassingly large backlog of rape kits in the state. Many of the kits have been tested since the enormous number was released, but a lot of work remains.
In that column, I tried to provide a brief respite from the constant barrage of partisan politics coming out of Raleigh or D.C. This was an example of a bipartisan win, even though the legislation has not yet passed. I don’t see a good reason why it would face large opposition, but when you start talking about spending millions of dollars on something in North Carolina, there is always a chance that it might fall through.
In highlighting the legislation, and its bipartisan support thus far, I did remove some context that I think is important. When I write, I don’t try to fixate on the places where I think one party is right and the other party is wrong, but sometimes that truth is too blatant to ignore. Regarding the budget of the North Carolina Department of Justice, I find a blatant wrong.
The Survivor Act would provide for a couple million dollars in spending to help test the enormous backlog of rape kits; part of this money would go toward hiring forensic scientists. I cannot help but wonder how the work of the NCDOJ might have been boosted were their budget maintained after Josh Stein became Attorney General. Back in 2017, after rolling out the new budget, the General Assembly gutted the DOJ budget. After the budget cut DOJ by $10M, Stein was forced to let go dozens of employees. The language also specified that certain departments could not be touched, giving him less leeway. Some areas that could have been leaner were verboten; others that were too lean already faced the axe.
Unfortunately, new bipartisan gains in this current session have to be contextualized and, on occasion, overshadowed by historical spites. President of the North Carolina Association of Police Chiefs wrote to Speaker Moore and Senate Leader Berger at the time, saying that, “The proposed recurring $10M cut will dramatically impair DOJ’s ability to prosecute criminals, keep convicted criminals behind bars by defending appeals, preserve taxpayer money by defending the State against lawsuits, and protect the people of North Carolina.” The party that would have you believe they stand for law and order were happy to gut that very department when it was politically expedient in 2017. I hope that the Survivor Act is a turning point and represents an alternative pathway forward for both parties to work together in protecting the Tar Heel state.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.