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N.C. Opinions: Winston-Salem

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McCrory must slow down on changes to Commerce

From an editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal on Tuesday:

Gov. Pat McCrory is determined to move many Department of Commerce functions to a public-private partnership, but he should slow down until he determines whether he has the authority to do so.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported last week that Commerce has developed a reorganization plan that would move dozens of jobs and millions of public dollars to McCrory’s Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. The department is seeking authorization to pay as much as $1.8 million in separation allowances to 65 Commerce employees.

But the N.C. Insider newsletter reports that several Republican legislators are openly questioning whether the legislature ever authorized McCrory to do what his plan entails.

The state budget directed the administration to begin planning, and planning only, for the conversion to a partnership, the legislators said in a legislative meeting and subsequent interviews. Senate Bill 127 would have provided the additional authority to undertake the sweeping changes Commerce envisions, but that bill did not pass.

Remarkably, a Commerce representative told the committee, the department is proceeding as if the bill had passed, however.

We realize that many McCrory administration officials are new to state government, but they should have learned in sixth grade that a bill is not a law, that the agency cannot proceed along the authority granted under SB 127 until that bill actually passes the General Assembly and is signed by the governor, if, in fact, any of that ever occurs.

With major industrial recruitments and other Commerce-assisted projects under way, the last thing North Carolina needs is the legal confusion that would emanate from an unauthorized department restructuring. The state could be left without a coherent economic development effort while everyone argues over who is in charge.

If McCrory and his budget office don’t stop after the planning stages are finished, then legislative leaders should take whatever actions necessary, including litigation, to stop them.

Legislators wisely stopped short of approving SB 127 so they could see exactly what McCrory’s partnership would involve. That partnership cannot proceed until legislators authorize it, so McCrory should slow down.

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