Commentary

Just how low did legislators sink in final hours of ’15 session?

Pretty low, according to the editorial board of the Winston-Salem Journal. An editorial posted over the weekend highlighted the dreadful/shameless effort of far right social conservatives led by Rep. Paul Stam and his protege, Senator Chad Barefoot (both of Wake County), to slip in a last minute provision that would have repealed all sorts of local ordinances — including some that ban wrongful discrimination against LGBT citizens, seniors and veterans. Here’s the Journal:

“Before ending its session early Wednesday morning, members of the legislature took one more crack at government overreach, trying to pass measures that would limit the authority and decision-making ability of local city and county governments. And they did so through underhanded methods that should put them to shame.

Members of a conference committee led by Sen. Chad Barefoot and Rep. Paul Stam — a panel of House and Senate members that is supposed to hash out the differences between their bills — inserted new language into an old bill, then used a procedural maneuver to send it to the Rules Committee, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. From there, the bill would have gone to the House floor for a vote before members could absorb its implications…

If passed, it could have overhauled a wide range of nondiscrimination ordinances, housing regulations and workplace regulations that some cities and counties have adopted or may adopt. It would have banned local ordinances to establish a higher minimum wage. It would have voided local ordinances governing housing and rental practices, possibly affecting Winston-Salem’s efforts to encourage housing diversity, Mayor Allen Joines told The Associated Press….

It’s hard to discern a motive for this attempt at tying local governments’ hands, beyond simply exerting more and more control — which seems to be motive enough for this legislature, as seen by previous attempts this session to restructure local elections and redraw districts to Republicans’ advantage. The legislation would have hit the LGBT community and the poor, making their lives more difficult than they already are.

It also seems to be common practice now to try to sneak these changes through rather than permit debate….

Fortunately, the legislation failed, but we condemn these repeated underhanded tactics. This isn’t the way democracy is supposed to work.”

Unfortunately, such deceptive maneuvers are increasingly the tactics of choice on Jones Street, where not only does the current crop of lawmakers have little use for the public structures and systems of good government, they also have little use for the rules of transparency and openness that make it work properly.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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