Witches, ghosts and goblins, yeah, and undead creatures that slowly stalk you in the night. But nothing is more terrifying this Halloween than the slate of measures passed by the North Carolina Legislature this session. They’ve expanded their powers, minimized competition, enabled secrecy and looting of public coffers for private gain, basically setting the table for a vise grip of unchecked authority that will only tighten while the majority party remains in control of bad actors.
Let’s first look at elections. This month, the NC Legislature overturned a veto on two elections bills that allows them to appoint the State Board of Elections, as opposed to the governor, which has always been the case. One of them changes the way we count votes — now, absentee ballots not received by Election Day will not be counted, removing a 3-day grace period for ballots with the proper postdate.
We move towards a dictatorship in small increments like these.
A bigger deal is the law written into the budget bill that exempts members of the General Assembly from NC public records law — the statute that we use to report on elected officials’ behind-the-scenes behavior and how they do business. So not only does the NC Legislature have more power than ever, they have the benefit of secrecy when using it.
To go along with power and secrecy, they have govern themselves some muscle. Also in the budget bill is the creation of the Joint Legislative Commission on Govermental Operations — GovOps for short — a new investigative arm of the legislature helmed by the political leaders in each chamber, which right now are Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland). According to the new law, they can call an investigation on any governmental agency, at any time, for any reason and then bring it to a hearing. There is no oversight on this “secret police” force, save for the two men who are now the most powerful people in the history of the state.
They can overturn an election, investigate their enemies, hide their motivations and act without fear of retaliation. I’d take the witches, ghosts and goblins over this mess any day of the week.
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