Making sausage with the NC legislature

0
42

We spent the bulk of our resources — time, mostly — this week on our cover story, “Fast Times at Capitol High,” a session highlight reel from every state legislator in Forsyth and Guilford counties.

It’s interesting to interpolate from the data, identify the channels of power by seeing who gets the most stuff passed, find instances of cross-party cooperation and see members of each group cut off from their factions.

Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), now a part of House leadership as whip, had a highly effective session, often pairing with his fellow Guilford County delegate Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) for bills that represented shared interests. Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) as usual filed an enormous amount of legislation — her name was on 322 bills — a small percentage of which actually got some traction. Rep. John Faircloth (R-Guilford) was able to move a lot forward without the help of his colleagues. And Rep. Debra Conrad (R-Forsyth) sponsored just 59 bills, but almost half of them made it through to the Senate.

In the Senate, Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) has had trouble pushing anything through, clashing ideologically with her Republican counterparts in the delegation, Sen. Trudy Wade and Senate President Phil Berger.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth, Yadkin) and Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) similarly find themselves outside the bubble.

This is how the sausage gets made in the NC General Assembly: by proximity to power. Simply having an “R” next to one’s name doesn’t guarantee traction in either chamber, and serving on influential committees holds little sway — Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) is the chair of a Judiciary Committee, yet he seems to be perpetually out of favor with party leadership as most of his bills went nowhere. His name was on 35 bills, and just 10 of them made it through to the Senate.

The overriding observation is that Democrats can’t get much done, and when they do, as Brockman’s word attests, it comes only with the blessing of the Republican leadership.

But this small cabal that controls our state government benefits from illegal gerrymandering.

It’s official: Our state government is illegitimate — at least in 19 of our state House districts and 9 in the state Senate, which the US Supreme Court affirmed earlier this month.

Our government, from president on down to city council, exists only because we all agree to recognize its authority. We set it all down on paper a long time ago, instilling an election system designed to accurately reflect the will of the majority as a basic right. Our free election system is sacrosanct, and is at the heart of everything we do as a country.

Now, in North Carolina, that trust has been violated.

Yet laws continue to get passed through this technically corrupted body, and we must all live by them until they are overturned by the courts, a process which takes years.