Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: NC’s full-time legislature

The General Assembly technically called it quits on the 2017 legislative session on June 30, but as Sunday’s lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record (“Legislature plans unhappy returns”) does a fine job of explaining, there’s likely to be a lot of dreary news in the weeks ahead as lawmakers do their best impression of a full-time legislature. Here’s the N&R:

“A ‘part-time’ legislature will end up meeting during 10 months of 2017 — if not more.

That follows 2016, when it held five ‘extra’ sessions beyond the regularly scheduled session. Most of them were for no good purpose — such as passing the infamous House Bill 2 and stripping the incoming governor of many of his powers.

When North Carolina Republicans, who control the legislature, tout ‘limited government,’ they don’t mean limits on their own power. They are constantly seeking to expand that.

When legislators again assemble in Raleigh, they have two legitimate assignments. One is to consider whether to override vetoes of bills by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The other is to comply with a court order to redraw unconstitutional legislative districts. The gerrymandered configurations they’ve constructed to benefit Republican candidates at the expense of Democrats and minorities should have been struck down years ago. The courts finally acted this year, and not another election should be held under those fraudulent districts.”

As the essay goes on the point out, however, there’s every indication that lawmakers will be up to  a lot more — including, quite likely, more gerrymandering mischief and just generally doing what they can to interfere with Governor Cooper’s work.

“With a Democratic governor, Republican legislators want to spend as much time in Raleigh as possible to dominate the state’s political agenda. But they also did that when Republican Pat McCrory was governor. McCrory was a better governor when the legislature was out of session, when he could take more initiatives on his own and not merely respond to the legislative agenda. But he rarely had the chance. Opportunities for Cooper might be even more elusive if he has to contend with endless legislative sessions.

That’s not how our state government is supposed to function. The governor is elected by all the people, and accountable to all the people, to be the top executive. The legislature should meet as briefly as possible to pass necessary laws, not stay in Raleigh year-round and dictate to the governor, the courts and to cities, counties and other political subdivisions down to the school board level.

Yes, it was good that our state government did not shut down over budget disputes this month. It’s not good that our legislature apparently won’t shut itself down.”

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