North Carolina’s Reactionary Legislative Session Rolls On
The tension is building in Raleigh as the countdown continues to Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto of the state budget and the attempt by Republicans to override it.
Perdue was in Greenville Monday talking about the damage the budget will do to all levels of the public education system. That’s the backyard of four of the five Democrats who voted for the Republican budget.
The Republican legislative leadership needs four of the five to break with their governor and their party again to override Perdue’s veto of their spending plan.
The drama of the veto and override vote is dominating legislative news, accompanied by the rhetorical battle in the media between Democrats and Republicans about how many teachers and other public education jobs the budget will eliminate in schools across the state.
But that’s not all that is happening in the legislative halls on Jones Street these days. While most of the media and public attention is focused on the eminent budget showdown between Perdue and the General Assembly leadership, the Republican’s crusade to enact their radical right-wing agenda continues unabated.
This week they are advancing legislation to make it more difficult for seniors and people with a disability to vote by forcing them to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. The House has already voted to shorten the length of the early voting period, which prompted The New York Times to call for a gubernatorial veto.
The Republican majorities are dismantling the public financing system for Council of State elections. That means that big contributions from insurance companies will help decide who is elected commissioner of insurance in 2012.
Last week the House passed a bill allowing the predatory consumer finance industry to jack up the already exorbitantly high interest rates they charge on small loans. That came over the objections of the U.S. Department of Defense and leaders of the state’s major military bases who are worried about the soldiers whom the companies target with their obscenely high interest rates.
The Republicans are moving to weaken the state’s programs to help people facing foreclosure, the last thing struggling families in North Carolina need. The House also passed legislation to limit the liability of pharmaceutical companies and make it harder for people to recover damages when they are injured by a corporation’s misconduct or negligence.
Sense the pattern here? More power for corporations in the political process and the legal system, less for average citizens who can’t afford to make big campaign contributions or hire lobbyists.
The budget itself reflects this sentiment, though not many people are talking about it with the understandable focus on the devastating cuts in the public education.
The Republican budget includes a provision prohibiting state regulators from adopting any environmental or workplace safety regulation stricter than the federal standard. A special committee on regulatory reform passed a similar measure Monday afternoon.
The budget cripples the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, laying off workers and transferring important conservation functions to the Department of Agriculture, where agribusiness almost always gets its way.
There’s plenty more inside and outside of the budget, another bill to further weaken the state’s gun laws on top of the effort to allow guns in bars and state parks.
The House recently passed a bill requiring women accessing private, legal medical services to listen to anti-choice propaganda first. The budget prohibits Planned Parenthood from receiving federal pass through grants for their cancer screenings.
The radical agenda is a long one and the Republican majorities seemed determine to remake as much of North Carolina as they can this year.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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