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Slow your roll, GOP; public is antsy for redo

By Fannie Flono
Associate Editor

As the 2013 N.C. legislative session lumbers agonizingly to an end – the first in a century with Republicans in control of everything – a lot of N.C. residents can’t wait for a vote do-over. And it’s not just Democrats who are raring for another button-push or lever pull in the voting booth.

Voters across the ideological spectrum are looking at the antics of this legislature with dismay. In their zeal to cement political power statewide for the foreseeable future, GOP lawmakers have not only abandoned some of their core principles but have adopted some of the worst excesses of the party many once decried.

On those excesses, some say Republicans have done the Democrats one better.

Sure, the Dems amended bills to push through legislation they wanted when they held the reins of power. But Republicans have taken sneaky to a new level with abortion legislation. First, Senate members attached abortion restrictions to a Sharia law bill and without public notice voted on it the day before the July 4th holiday. The House on Tuesday jammed its abortion legislation into a motorcycle safety bill. And in what House leaders called an unprecedented move, members held an unpublicized committee hearing on the bill and then approved it. The full House OK’d the bill on Thursday after three hours of public debate. Gov. Pat McCrory should veto it as promised.

Thousands of angry mostly female protesters have showed up in Raleigh to express their disapproval. They have now joined droves of other dissatisfied North Carolinians who have taken part in weeks of Moral Monday demonstrations against legislative moves.

Add these folks to the disgruntled as well: local governments. This legislative session might become known too for the heavy handed moves to impose state lawmakers’ will on local entities. In Charlotte, legislators’ plans to take the Charlotte Douglas Airport and turn it over to a regional authority is getting a lot of press. But lawmakers have pushed through bills overriding local authority across the state. Plans include taking over the Asheville water system, changing the way Wake County (Raleigh) school board members are elected, taking away authority of cities and towns to regulate billboards, and prohibiting cities from implementing stronger environmental rules than the state’s.

These moves seem to belie the GOP’s usual preference for local control. But state Rep. Tim Moffitt of Asheville had an explanation: “From a conservative point of view, we believe in local control, but not out of control,” he told the Asheville Citizen-Times last month. I believe he meant to say, “but not out of OUR control.”

For McCrory and other Republicans, citizen dissatisfaction should be worrisome. Despite GOP redistricting that has given many Republicans in the state an edge, moderates and some Democrats helped elect them.

As Republican lawmakers finish up the session, they should consider last month’s Public Policy Polling results. Only 39 percent of voters approve of the job they’re doing; 51 percent oppose it. Forty percent of Republicans disapproved (39 percent approved) and 63 percent of independents disapproved (20 percent approved).

Voters gave a thumbs down to the budgets of both the House and the Senate with just 17 percent in favor of the Senate plan (50 percent oppose) and 19 percent in favor of the House plan (49 percent oppose). And if an election was held for the legislature now, most said last month they would vote for the Democrat over the Republican (48 percent to 41 percent).

Given the snooty, disdainful way many GOP lawmakers have treated constituents who disagree with them, they may dismiss these numbers out of hand. But there are other numbers lawmakers can’t dismiss – votes cast at the polls. Lawmakers ignore this dissatisfaction at their peril; 2014 can’t come soon enough for many.

Email: fflono@charlotteobserver.com.
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