Progressives should take heart. Yes, whenever the General Assembly is in session, it’s usually bad news for those in North Carolina who are politically left of center, and a number of bills were passed to advance the conservative agenda of the GOP. But there are a few that didn’t make the final cut, and progressives are breathing a sigh of relief. Among the bills that didn’t make it:
SB 705: Ensure Fair Sale of Dorothea Dix Property – This bill, if passed, would have revoked the deal made by Governor Pat McCrory and the City of Raleigh for the Dorothea Dix property. Some senators felt Raleigh was getting the land for cheap and wanted to sell it for a higher price. In the end, the bill’s sponsors decided to drop the bill, saying essentially that while they’re not fans of the negotiated sales price, the deal has been done and the state should just live with it.
SB 593: Improve Professor Quality/UNC System – Would have required professors at the UNC system to teach 8 courses a year, focusing more on teaching and less on research. Bill sponsors argued that students deserve the attention of their professors and shouldn’t have graduate student TAs doing all the work. Opponents, including many in higher education, feared that it would wreak havoc at research institutions like UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State. This week, the bill was withdrawn and referred to a legislative study bill. Expect a lot more bills in the future aimed at higher education reform. This one was just a bridge too far, even for most Republican legislators.
HB 348/S550: Religious Freedom Restoration Act Because everyone already knows a little bit about RFRA, there’s no need to go over in detail what it would do. This, and similar legislation in other states, was basically a bone to throw to religious conservatives and was expected to pass easily.
That is, until GOP legislators saw what happened in Indiana and got spooked. Social media activists and the high tech industry mobilized against the bill and tainted not only the State of Indiana, but also the words “religious freedom”, delivering another impressive victory for the LGBT movement.
With the GOP in power at all branches of government in North Carolina, liberals in the Tar Heel State may have started to embrace the philosophy of Calvin Coolidge: “It’s much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” Liberals have a lot to complain about this session, but the three bills listed above should remind them to look on the bright side: it could have been worse.