As Chris Fitzsimon noted with some biting and on-the-money humor last week, conservative state political leaders appear to have reached the point in the 2013 legislative session at which they have “jumped the shark.” For those who may not have caught the cultural reference, the phrase derives from a late-20th Century TV sitcom called “Happy Days”; the show was widely seen to have reached its nadir during an episode in which one of the main characters jumped over a shark while water skiing.
For conservatives, it’s hard to point out just one shark-jumping moment in their script, but as Chris notes, the bill to excuse the state from the First Amendment’s establishment clause seems like a strong contender.
Rob Christensen of Raleigh’s News & Observer wrote a rather curious column over the weekend in which he alleged that GOP leaders had basically gotten all the shark-jumping ideas under control, but judging by the agenda for the coming week (destruction of the state tax code, mandatory voter ID, selling off the state’s award-winning Medicaid system to privatizers, more hostile takeovers of the assets of unfavored municipalities, just to name a few) the leaders have a strange way of showing it.
Indeed, what Christensen didn’t mention about the crazy state religion bill is that it wasn’t just the work of extreme outliers; it was in fact endorsed by nearly one-in-five House Republicans. As Fitzsimon noted:
“Among the 14 Republicans who signed the state religion resolution are House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes and Appropriations Committee Chair Justin Burr, two senior members of the House leadership team.”
It’s also rather interesting that Christensen said nothing critical about the notion that House Speaker Tillis can simply kill a proposal unilaterally — an idea that would have generated all sorts of criticism in past years if it had been done by Marc Basnight or Joe Hackney.
The bottom line: If conservative state leaders have the shark jumping under control, it’s sure not apparent to average North Carolinians. That’s one of the reasons a lot of them will be descending on Jones Street tomorrow to protest the out-of-control behavior of state lawmakers. These folks understand that with the bill introduction deadline for House members still two weeks away, there are still probably a lot of extreme twists in the 2013 session script yet to come.