From The Carolinian: Democracy questioned in the NC General Assembly
Democracy in North Carolina is under attack by the GOP. Since 2011 Republicans have tried to seize control of all branches of government. They have employed unconstitutional extreme partisan and racial gerrymandering to secure their positions effectively chosing their voters rather than allowing voters to choose their representatives. They have tried to suppress voters by passing unconstitutional voting laws. They have removed the Governor’s powers, and are still trying to take over the courts. They pass laws in the dark with no debate or public comment. This is an outright attack on democracy to ensure that all state powers go to the Republican party so they can pass their extreme agenda.
As North Carolina GOP leaders have started to follow in suit behind President Trump, some claim that democracy within the state’s General Assembly is wasting away.
“Donald Trump is no longer just an inconvenient tool for the Right in North Carolina; he has become the role model,” said Rob Schofield, Director of NC Policy Watch. “If you think this is an exaggeration, take a closer look at some of the guiding premises of the budget bill approved by the General Assembly last week… Some inattentive observers may be characterizing the budget bill in ‘ho hum’ terms as a ‘compromise,’ but the truth of the matter is much more sinister. In area after area, the legislation is a monument to Trumpism at its cynical worst.”
The North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh is made up of the Senate and the North Carolina House of Representatives, which both work to draft and enact laws. The Republican Party currently has control of the General Assembly despite North Carolina having a Democratic governor, Governor Roy Cooper.
“Ever since Republicans seized control of the General Assembly in 2011, there has been a broad and steady decline in open debate and fair process,” Schofield wrote for NC Policy Watch.
Throughout “Darkness descends on the General Assembly,” Schofield cited various instances in which he believes the behavior in the General Assembly is taking a turn for the worse. This includes more closed door sessions, some of which are late at night or at surprise times, and no more tabling from outside groups trying to advocate for various causes. It also includes interrupting legislators during debates, going around various procedures that are in place such as committees and rules about recording and archiving proceedings, and “burying” laws that legislators think may be controversial.
“…Republicans have evidenced little shame,” said Schofield. “Much as has been the case with gerrymandering, legislative leaders have not so much invented new tactics and tricks as they have cynically perfected and expanded the use of old ones.”
Schofield does not blame North Carolina’s media for the lapse in coverage and pushback, as he says the journalists assigned to the General Assembly are likely flooded with stories and developments, but he does believe that they have gotten too used to the way things have become.
“Maybe it’s a question of simply being worn down over time or, conversely, of being too inexperienced and desirous of projecting a cynical, world weary image, but whatever it is, the darkness that is increasingly enveloping the General Assembly demands a much louder and more forceful pushback than it’s currently receiving,” said Schofield. “Without it, a small portion of our democracy is dying each day.”
There have been statewide and in some cases national responses on various actions taken by the North Carolina General Assembly in the recent past. These include responses to HB2, or the “Bathroom Bill,” in 2016 and the more recent voting district redrawing.