(Cross-posted from Legislative Watch)
North Carolina prides itself on having a part-time, “citizen” legislature — a place in which “just plain folks” can represent their fellow citizens in the halls of power. And the idea has much to recommend it.
But there is clearly a downside to the idea — one that was on full-display this morning as legislators held committee meetings to review important spending and policy items. The problem, put politely, is this: some legislators know very, very little about the subjects on which they are making decisions.
Take the joint HHS Appropriations Subcommittee meeting that occurred this morning, for instance. While lawmakers asked a lot of relevant and thoughtful questions, some displayed a remarkable – how shall we put it? — dearth of knowledge.
According to folks in attendance, a prime example was Senator Tommy Tucker. Tucker is heating and cooling business owner from the town of Waxhaw. He is a legislative rookie — having come in with the new crop of conservative Republicans.
Today, he posed a series of questions and statements that showed just how far he has to go to get up to speed.
His first question, posed to HHS Secretary and former Republican legislator Lanier Cansler, was about how many “illegal aliens” the Department served.
Really, Senator? That’s your first big question about North Carolina’s safety net programs?
After being assured by Cansler that the number was small and the circumstances extremely limited, Tucker moved on to another head scratcher: He suggested that one solution to the state’s huge and chronic waiting list for child care (right now, it’s about 45,000) would be for every church in the state to take in a kid in need of care. Really, Senator? And how exactly would that work? Heck, while we’re at it, why don’t we get the churches to feed the poor too? And maybe run our public schools?
Finally, Tucker expounded upon his belief that 1.7 million North Carolinians were not really without health insurance because of the work done by a number of community-based clinics and health centers who tend to some of the acute care needs of the poor. Really, Senator? Do you really believe that? By such “logic” the same can be said for those whose health care “coverage” is provided by hospital emergency rooms.
The bottom line: Senator Tucker is no doubt a sincere and well-meaning fellow. But if this is the level of comments and suggestions he’s going to bring to the debate this year, it’s going to be a long, long session.