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The aftermath

Here are some preliminary thoughts about last night’s circus at the State Legislative Building and the online post mortem that’s been continuing right along in the hours since:

#1 – There’s compromise and then there’s plain old selling out. I’m currently plowing my way through Robert Caro’s latest tome on the life and times of Lyndon Johnson and I’ve spent many, many years lobbying the General Assemblies of two different states so I know all about political realities and the frequent necessity of compromise to get things done. That is not what happened last night at the General Assembly with the supposedly progressive lawmakers who voted with the conservatives in power. Compromise happens when smart people make strategic decisions in an effort to advance (or at least preserve) a coherent  agenda. Selling out is when ambitious, unprincipled and/or delusional individuals make deals that benefit themselves personally at the expense of the greater good. 

#2 – Most biting (and accurate) online commentary – Multiple online commenters have referred to Rep. Susi Hamilton’s late night skedaddle from the House floor on the budget vote and her vote for the fracking override in exchange for the extension of a tax giveaway to the movie industry (Rep. Hamilton is from the Wilmington area and has reportedly rented her home to movie industry employees) as the equivalent of selling out her party and principles for “30 pieces of silver.” The critique is not quite accurate; actually it was 60 million pieces.

#3- Wake up!! Rep. Becky Carney is a nice person who’s done some good things during her many years in Raleigh and I know she’s had some health issues (Blue Cross Blue Shield loves to remind us of this fact in TV commercials) and that it was late and that she feels real sorry about her vote in favor of fracking , but good grief!! If there’s one basic thing that a lawmaker is supposed to do, it’s sit in one’s seat, pay attention and vote “yes” or “no.” If her explanation is really true — that she accidentally cast her vote in favor of the motion to override the Governor’s veto (a vote that turned out to be the deciding vote) — she is guilty of a level of negligence and incompetence that is truly astounding. I know it’s harsh and that the Tillis/Stam team made things confusing by shutting off debate, but there simply can be no excuse for such an act by such an experienced and intelligent politician. At a minimum, one would have thought that the default vote for  Democrats on all votes last night whenever they weren’t sure would have been “no.”  (As an aside, rumors abound this morning in the G.A. that Carney was actually seen exiting the Speaker’s office last night shortly before the vote). 

#4 – Most useful conservative pawn of the sessionRep. Darren Jackson and Rep. Hamilton (see above) are strong contenders here.  Jackson — a generally progressive fellow on many issues — voted for the GOP budget at the last minute because, he said, he has a lot of state employees in his district. This is, of course, absurd. State employee will be greatly harmed by the budget, as will state government in general. Sadly, however, for reasons known only to the bizarre and inscrutable calculations of the people who run the organization, the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) has been a strong defender of the budget and a consistent ally of the Tillis/Berger team throughout the last two years. One must assume that the group had a lot to do with securing Jackson’s vote. At least, however, Jackson had the guts to stand up on the floor and own his vote.

But the winner in this category has to be Rep. Marcus Brandon of High Point. Brandon,who is African-American and the legislature’s only openly gay lawmaker, has made much throughout the session of his strange personal friendship with Republican Majority Leader Paul Stam — one of the state’s most tenacious and reactionary social crusaders and the chief sponsor of the marriage discrimination amendment. The apparent source of the Brandon/Stam partnership was their shared support for school vouchers. Okay, maybe Brandon gets half a break on this one. He’s 100% wrong on vouchers, but his stated rationale (that the traditional public schools in his area have a done a bad job for poor and minority kids) might narrowly pass a laugh/smell test.

But how does a school vouchers friendship translate into a vote to override the Governor’s veto of a budget that slashes public schools and dozens of other essential programs, denies compensation to eugenics victims and cements a tax break for millionaires?  The least he could have done was stand up on the floor and pretend to offer an explanation.

15 Comments

  1. Rob Schofield

    July 3, 2012 at 11:16 am

    One loyal reader sends the following comment on this post:

    1.) The League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV) should ask Hamilton to give back her “Green Tie” Award.

    2.) Rep. Carney flanked by NCLCV, Sierra Club and other enviros should publicly demand that her vote be changed, and counted to sustain the veto, not allowing Stam’s trickery to stand. (If she doesn’t she fails her constituents, and your rumors appear to hold more weight.)

    3.) Finally, Tillis succeeded in dividing and conquering. This morning’s headlines are more about what the Dems did wrong, not about what the Republicans have done to forever change our state.

  2. James

    July 3, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Excellent (and sad) summary,

  3. Rob Schofield

    July 3, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Honorable mention for useful pawn: Rep. Marian McLawhorn…

  4. James

    July 3, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Carney should raise a GIGANTIC stink … and should even file a lawsuit … even if it’s only in the court of public opinion.

  5. Frank Burns

    July 3, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Part of the aftermath should also consider the impact of having a weak governor. I’m sure that it was very difficult for other Democrats to support such a weak governor with an absence of leadership skills.

  6. James

    July 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Bullshit Frank.

    Your ability to make excuses for cowardice, stupidity and corruption is truly breathtaking.

  7. david esmay

    July 3, 2012 at 11:35 am

    James, you could add pseudo-science and racism to your list of Frank’s abilities.

  8. Kate

    July 3, 2012 at 11:53 am

    If it’s really fairly common for legislators to be able to change their vote after a mistake, then I think Carney deserves a little more slack.

  9. Rick Barton

    July 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Kate- I think the rule you can change your vote only if the outcome of the law being considered is not going to change. I am very pro fracking, but you do have to feel sorry for Becky C. Pilots do it all the time…. Take off with those big red ribbons hanging from control surfaces that say “REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT”. It is what it is.

  10. Rob Schofield

    July 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    A person I trust and who has reason to know has told me they’re convinced Carney’s mistake was truly inadvertent and her regret very sincere. I’m glad to hear this. It’s still a remarkable screw-up, however.

  11. Jeff S

    July 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Is it better to believe her incompetent than a liar?

  12. […] common decency dealt another blow in the House Post on July 3, 2012 by Rob Schofield No Comments As I wrote earlier this morning, Rep. Becky Carney deserves a big raspberry for her inexplicable and accidental vote to pass the […]

  13. Rob Schofield

    July 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Rep. Brandon sends the following statement about his actions:

    “I voted for the budget because for the first time in 5 years teachers and state empoyees will be getting a raise. The UNCG/NC A&T school of nanoscience stood to loose 1 million dollars if we did not approve this budget which woud have delayed that project at best, and halted it at worst. There was unprecedented money dealing with HIV/AIDS and clinincs across this state would have had to stop services or laying off as soon as tomorrow. With the Senate adjourning and going home, I had two options– vote for this budget or last year’s budget which was ten times worse than this one. I spent all day asking my leadership and others by sustaining the governor’s veto will we get a better budget. No one could give me an answer, and I just could not take that chance.

    I understand my party would have liked to sustain the gov. veto, but I always say I am here to represent my constitutents first. And I will sleep well knowing that I voted to the best of my ability, with the information I had at hand, and with my constituents at the forefront of my mind.”

  14. Doug

    July 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Now NC can finally move forward !

  15. Hmmm

    July 4, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    If what Rep Brandon says is correct, he did the right thing and Perdue, Hackney, Nesbit et al are incompetent fools. How can you not have a back up plan? How can that crew expect ANY House Democrat to be comfortable with the explanation “trust us”?

    While controlling the Governor’s Mansion and with the Elephant Asses lacking a veto proof majority in the legislature we absolutely lost every single major battle this year except voter ID.

    Rob, I love you, but damn it if our guys and gals understood compromise we would have seen a slight shift to the middle after a long run of progressive government in NC and we’d have a chance to retake the legislature in 2012. Instead they foolishly went all in on a bad hand and lost NC to the progressive movement for the next 20 years.

    Our field Generals should have understood that we needed to beat a strategic retreat. We’d lose a few battles but live to fight another day. What we got was Perdue/Hackney/Nesbit playing General Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn.

    The NC progressive movement found out Berger and Tillis take no prisoners just scalps. Our leaders were unprepared and unable to adjust to divided government. For us there are no survivors in the battles of 2011-2012. And that falls squarely on the alshoulders of our leaders.