Sunday, December 18, 2016

North Carolina Legislature’s Unconscionable Power Grab

Stealing Democracy

By Mildred Robertson   
As the North Carolina State Legislature convened to “allegedly” provide support for victims of Hurricane Matthew and the wild fires raging in Western North Carolina, they quickly moved on with their agenda to steal power from the rightfully elected governor who defeated Republican incumbent, Pat McCory in November. The thinly veiled power grab is not just an assault on Governor Elect Roy Cooper, but an assault on the very core of democratic rule in our state.

Recently North Carolina has become ground zero for the reinvigoration of the Southern Strategy that harkens back to the racism of 1950s and 60s. This strategy, which is grounded in racial and religious intolerance, is wielded by Republicans to motivate white racism and implement draconian laws to subjugate and disenfranchise minorities and progressive seeking truly democratic governance. We have seen the ravages of race-based politics on both the state and national level.
It is clear that the North Carolina legislature has no regard for the will of the people. In recent years it has gerrymandered voting districts, instituted backward thinking legislation such as HB2 that draws negative national attention and damages business development, and held impromptu late-night and other special sessions to sneak legislation through the general assembly. The Republican-led General Assembly is indifferent to the will of the people, the principle of good governance, and the rule of law.  
As this lame-duck governor packs his bags to vacate the Governor’s mansion, the General Assembly proposed 28 bills for him to consider prior to his departure. Among those bills are attempts to strip the incoming governor of the power to make appointments. This is particularly ironic, in that when McCory took office the Republican legislature expanded the number of political appointments he could make from approximately 500 to 1500. Now that Cooper is in office, the General Assembly passed legislation to make 1,200 of McCory’s political appointees permanent state employees, limiting Cooper to 300 appointments.  Further, they propose that cabinet appointments go through Senate confirmation which will result in the same kind of obstructionism that we see in the presidential Supreme Court nomination. 
But their assault is not limited to the incoming governor. A Senate Bill attempts to change the makeup of the State Board of Elections so as not to have a Democratic majority.  Election Boards determine which votes count. This comes on the heels of an August finding by a panel of federal judges that the Republican-led legislature used racial discrimination to undermine the power of minority voters in the state.
Hundreds of North Carolinians have gathered on Jones Street since the session began to voice their opposition to the legislature’s most recent run on democracy. They have vociferously opposed the legislative shenanigans designed to wrest power from the North Carolina electorate and disempower the democratically elected governor.
We cannot be discouraged as we witness the assault on democracy from the highest levels of national government down to our very own state legislative buildings. We must all raise our voices to let our elected officials know that we expect our government to be fair.  We expect our vote to count. We expect our voice to be heard.   We expect our elected officials to put good governance above partisanship. We expect government for the people, by the people.  We will not rest until we have reached those goals.