Editorial: Trading party punches, stateside

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Trying to stay astride the news cycle these days is a little bit like washing bottles with a firehose: It will get the job done, but in the end there’s gonna be water everywhere.

Ignoring, for the time being, the barrage of outrages coming from Washington, DC — you can get your dose of national politics in this week’s cover story, “Four weeks in: Trump and the path to autocracy,” beginning on page 12 — we turn to Raleigh, where a different type of sleight-of-hand is being performed.

A slew of outrageous laws has arisen to feed the slush pile, but one being pushed by 10 different Republicans does away with the concealed-carry permitting process, essentially allowing all North Carolina residents above the age of 18 to keep a gun in their pocket. What could go wrong?

And at least one high-ranking member of the state GOP, Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse, has shown the capacity to use Twitter to incite well-earned outrage: He tweeted a link to an article from redstate.com that characterized trans-Americans as “mentally ill and sexual perverts who claim to be mentally ill.”

But as usual, the real show is in the courts, now engaged in an odd sort of tug-of-war between the new governor and the president pro tem of the Senate.

Back in December, during one of two extra sessions of the General Assembly, the Republican members of the Senate unveiled a thick stack of legislation that among other things abolished the State Board of Elections and folded its operations into a State Ethics Commission that in some ways was a superior way to address the integrity of state elections. It also curtailed the traditional powers of the governor.

Gov. Roy Cooper, as one of his first acts this year, took the architects of the bill, including Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger Sr., to court. The action came before a Superior Court panel that granted a stay in the formation of the new entity. Then last week, a Court of Appeals panel quashed the lower court’s stay. There’s controversy, of course: Berger Sr.’s son, Phil Berger Jr., won a seat on that very Court of Appeals just last year, but the names of the judges on the panel remain confidential.

This week the law landed in the state Supreme Court, with a new judge Mike Morgan tilting the balance of power to the left. The NC Supreme Court supported the first court’s findings, essentially putting a stay on a stay on a stay and quashing the power-play by Republicans in the General Assembly… for now. The initial suit still needs to be tried and adjudicated.

Meanwhile, we’re still trying to figure out if we will have new districts and elections for state House and Senate seats. That one is in the hands of the US Supreme Court, which is still at this point one judge short and leaning slightly left.