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governing

First Prize for Nastiest State Goes to…

This state shows what one-party rule looks like

There's a theory that Americans are savvy enough about government that they vote for a legislature in opposition to the president, a kind of populist check and balance scheme to make sure that no one side runs away with the country. And so we have a Democratic president; a Democratic majority in the Senate, hemmed in by the strange filibuster rule that now requires 60% to pass anything; and a Republican-controlled House that sees to it that nothing that the president wants goes forward.

They haven’t heard about that theory in North Carolina. Republicans took control of both houses of the legislature in 2010 for the first time in a hundred years. Gerrymandering had seen to it that Democrats have been corralled into few enough districts not to matter, so voters finally achieved one-party rule when they swept Republican Pat McCrory into the governorship in the 2012 election.

self-sufficiency

In short order this triumvirate set about cutting maximum unemployment benefits from an average of about $300 a week by a third, and shortening eligibility from 26 weeks to as few as 12, expected to affect some 170,000 people by year-end. What makes that all the more extraordinary is that reducing benefits makes the state ineligible for $700 million in federal aid in a state with the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation, hovering around 9%. The effect of the cuts is to have the unemployed themselves return the $2.5 billion the state owes to Washington for past unemployment borrowings, and only because the state wants to retire the debt three years sooner.


Now in its 14th week, a Moral Monday crowd of 5,000 emerged in Asheville, at the western corner of the state opposite from the state capital in Raleigh.

North Carolina is also one of the states that has refused to expand Medicaid, turning away the Obamacare program that would have paid for 100% of the expansion in the early years and 90% thereafter.

As for the state’s wealthier residents, Republicans in the legislature want to cut their income taxes and raise sales taxes, already nearly 7% on most items. North Carolinians even pay a 2% tax on food.

dumbing down

The jobs problem will worsen with the state’s plan to spend less on schools than it spent in 2007, regardless of a growing population. Services to disabled children are being cut back and 10,000 pre-kindergarten slots are slated for elimination, despite a growing realization among educators and social scientists that a low learning environment in those earliest years results in a cognitive gap that is never overcome in later years. Extra pay for teachers with masters degrees will be cut and limits on class size will be eliminated.

aborting abortions

The state assembly has passed an anti-abortion law that would call for doctors to be on hand for all abortion drug doses and require clinics to match the same standards as surgical centers, either of which would have the desired effect of forcing clinics to close shop. The state senate passed its own bill, rushed through in 24 hours under the cover of the July 4th holiday. It was tacked on as an amendment to an unrelated bill regulating motorcycles and banning Sharia Law.

Governor McCrory made a campaign pledge that he would not sign any law that curbs access to abortions. But he was lying. He just signed the bill. To make protesters outside the governor's manse forget their anger, he came out of the gate with a plate of cookies.

let executions proceed

The state has repealed its Racial Justice Act, the first in the country passed only four years ago, and now being emulated elsewhere. It gave death row inmates an opening to lessen their sentences if racial discrimination — typically the disproportionate removal of blacks from the jury panel by prosecutors during voir dire — could be proved.

The state is on the verge of ending public funding of judicial elections, which every candidate for the state’s supreme court and court of appeals opted for in last year’s elections. That will leave judicial candidates to rely in the future on contributions of attorneys and special interest groups looking for favorable future rulings.

ballot box barriers

No sooner had the U.S. Supreme Court hobbled the Voting Rights Act that for certain counties in North Carolina required prior approval by the Justice Department of any changes to voting laws, than the legislature moved to change the laws for the full state. To vote will require a document with a photo (“of a white man”, said one wag), but state IDs issued to those receiving financial assistance will not be accepted, a high percentage of them being African-American, nor will student IDs qualify, they being a liberal-leaning bloc at election time. In a move that hopes to deter students from voting at all, the plan is to end a family’s tax deduction for their dependents if student sons or daughters vote at college instead of at home.

The bill trims early voting by a week, ends same-day registration, ends straight-party voting, increases contribution limits, allows secret money to influence elections, and bans voting on Sundays, an after-church tradition for blacks.

The legislature has passed a number of bills that take from cities control of their own facilities, examples being Asheville’s water systems, its airport, and Charlotte’s airport as well. David Swindell, who teaches public policy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says “these changes amount to an unprecedented attack on the state’s cities, which happen to be home to many of the state’s Democrats”. Governor McCrory was mayor of Charlotte before moving to the governorship, but has turned his back on his no longer needed power base.

There's even a proposal to declare a state religion (and you can guess which one) in violation of the Constitution's establishment clause.

The state is making a “powerful comeback” says McCrory. All these “tough decisions” are “problem-solving”, a phrase he uses three times in a short letter to the critical New York Times that addressed none of the above issues. “Already companies have announced plans to create more than 9,300 jobs in the state and invest more than $1.1 billion in facilities“, renewed prosperity that begs the question of why the need to slash the quality of life so drastically?

The changes have spawned a new institution in North Carolina: “Moral Mondays”, the weekly demonstrations of growing crowds in the capital, Raleigh, that have been assembling for months and are spreading to other cities. As of this writing, 925 citizens have been arrested. The movement and the state’s heavy-handed majoritarian upheaval have attracted media attention nationwide.

1 Comment for “First Prize for Nastiest State Goes to…”

  1. Hope the next article you write is about the last 7 years of policies and questionable actions taken Obama and the Democrats.

    If you are outraged over one state – imagine how some of us feel about the state of the entire country as result of last 7 years

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