Peter St. Onge

A troubling bill; a surprising no on economic incentives

As the session careened toward a close this month, Republicans in Raleigh introduced last-minute budgets, launched surprise legislation, ignored rules and stomped on protocol. Democrats objected to the legislators gone wild, to no avail.

In other words, same as always – no matter which party is in charge.

But this year, in one unexpected moment, the party with power checked itself, for the better of everyone.

It happened with H1224, an economic incentives bill that also would have limited how counties, including Mecklenburg, could raise sales taxes. The bill had turned into zombie legislation – dead and alive and dead again – before Senate Republicans revived it once more by linking it to two other bills. One was a much needed fix that helped school districts pay teacher assistants, but that bill contained language saying it would die unless H1224 passed.

It's not rare to pair unrelated issues in the same bill - either to poison or propel it to passage. But linking the fate of separate bills is something House members couldn't remember happening before. House Republicans spoke out against the legislative extortion, then ultimately killed it.

Yes, some of those protesting Republicans also were opposed to the economic incentives in H1224. Others didn't like penalizing larger N.C. counties by limiting their ability to raise sales taxes. So we shouldn't anoint all who voted nay as procedural heroes.

But some Republicans simply didn't like how H1224 abused the legislative process, and they stood up to Republican leadership – including House Speaker Thom Tillis – and rejected the bill. It was a startling defeat of cynical legislating. If only that were the same as always.