The General Assembly’s never-ending session continued doing damage to the state this week. Republicans sent unfunded mandates that will hurt counties and schools. They continue micromanaging the Attorney General’s office to spite Democrat Josh Stein and leave the rest of us less safe. They overrode Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a pollution protection bill that leaves our drinking water less safe. Finally, they continued to try to rig elections to favor Republicans by gerrymandering judicial districts and cancelling elections. You read that right.
Schools and counties across the state are already struggling under budget cuts handed down by Republicans since they took power in 2010. Now, Republicans are reducing class size in lower grades without funding the additional expense of more teachers and more classrooms. While smaller class sizes are desirable, the legislature’s lack of funding will cost schools and students art and music classes and, in some cases, physical education. It’s a continuation of their strategy to reduce school funding while claiming public schools are failing.
Republicans have been playing games with our safety ever since Josh Stein won the Attorney General’s race by defeating a sitting Republican state senator. First, they cut his budget by $10 million without warning. Now, they’re forcing Stein’s office to take up appeals that he has no money defend. The result will almost surely be more criminals on the street and for that we can thank a vengeful GOP playing politics with our safety.
When we learned that a pollutant called Gen-X had been dumped into the Cape Fear for years, Roy Cooper and local officials requested money to study the impact and prevent further contamination. The GOP gave them less than $500,000 to protect the water supply Wilmington, one of the state’s major cities. That’s not enough to do anything but send a reassuring message to polluters.
State Representative Justin Burr (R-Stanley) proposed a major overhaul of judicial districts to make districts more favorable for Republicans. As John Guze of the John Locke Foundation wrote, the state is overdue for revamping judicial districts but it should be done cautiously and not with an eye toward scoring political points. Burr’s bill passed the House and now we need to await the Senate, not a great prospect.
The legislature also cancelled primary elections for judges altogether in 2018. They made judicial elections partisan last year and believe Republicans will have better chances in a free-for-all election in November instead of primary elections where moderate Republicans might get beaten by unelectable right-wing ideologues. Once again, their goal is to rig the electoral process instead of insuring fair elections.
Republicans coming to Raleigh is bad for North Carolina. They’ve created a process of an ongoing legislative session where they can pull out legislation with little or no debate. They’ve done damage to our state and our political process. As a WRAL editorial says this morning, they’ve turned North Carolina into a Banana Republic where three white guys from rural districts have disproportional control over a state that is increasingly urban, suburban and diverse.