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Editorials blast General Assembly’s assault on local government

Blatantly contradicting past passionate positions is nothing new for the current conservative leadership of the General Assembly. Whether it’s the abandonment of their once deep concern for transparency in budgeting or their amnesia when it comes to political gerrymandering,  the folks running the show on Jones Street today can do a “180” on a supposedly principled position faster than you can say “Mr. Pope is on line one.”

This week’s classic case in point is the issue of “local control” and the once deep concern that conservatives supposedly had for assuring that as much power as possible be vested in the governmental bodies that were “closest to the people.” As it turns out, this formerly fervent belief was really more like a rough guideline — especially when it comes to the matter of local governments imposing the business taxes that they see fit.

Today, editorials in both the Wilmington Star-News and Fayetteville Observer rightfully take the General Assembly to task for their recent action in advancing a bill that would cap local privilege license fees on all businesses at $100.

Here’s the Observer:

“Cities and towns are under fire in North Carolina. Their ability to collect revenue for long-provided services is being limited, as is their right to regulate activities as local voters see fit.

Republicans complained for years about too much central control. They championed local government as closer and more responsive to voters. Decentralization would protect liberty by restraining bloated centers of power, trimming bureaucracies and restoring control to the people.

Today’s GOP legislators may not have gotten that memo. In libertarian zeal to shrink even local government, they’ve come to resemble anarchists more than conservatives. Ironically, their actions are a huge power grab by state government.”

And this is from the Star-News:

“Once again, the Honorables are trying to do the job of city councils. And that is not a positive development.

This week the N.C. House tentatively approved a bill that caps privilege license fees at $100. That’s $100, regardless of the size of the business or its impact on services and infrastructure. But all businesses are not the same. Under this scenario, the mom-and-pop bookseller will pay the same privilege license fee as a big-box retailer, or manufacturing plant….

The Republican lawmakers who would weaken cities’ autonomy often preach local control, but their actions have centralized control. They killed cities’ right to annex residents who live just on the outskirts and enjoy many of the city’s benefits without paying for them. They restricted cities’ ability to regulate billboards and may invalidate local tree ordinances that are often championed by residents to preserve a community’s character and livability.”

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