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Truth in legislative bill naming: titles like psychopaths

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Six months into the grudge match known as the legislative session, and lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills whose titles are like psychopaths: superficially charming, unreliable, insincere, egocentric and shameless.

Now, Senate rules require the "title of each bill shall adequately and fairly reflect its subject matter," and House rules mandate that "all bills and resolutions shall show in their captions a brief descriptive statement of the true substance of same." However, that doesn't explain the measure Protect Health Care Freedom, which should be christened "Use Taxpayer Dollars to Force the State to Sue the Feds to Protect Insurance Companies."

As a public service, we've slipped on the legislative decoder ring to reveal the true nature of some of these benignly named bills:

Campaign Finance and Regulatory Reforms: Could this bill call for further in-depth reporting of campaign contributions? More transparency in elections? No, it's nothing that bold and courageous: This measure would revoke voter-owned/ publicly financed elections. It's aimed at the People's Republic of Chapel Hill, where Town Council candidates can voluntarily participate in the Communist plot to try to keep corporate contributors from buying elections.

If we did curb such corporate influence, what would health care political action committees do when their tee time is rained out? Well, they wouldn't be down at the Legislature lobbying for Medical Liability Reforms, a bill that erodes your ability to sue a medical professional for substandard care by capping damages and largely excluding medical errors made in emergency rooms. Hey, malpractice insurers need the money—country club dues ain't cheap—even though, as the Indy reported late last month, these insurers are enjoying record profits.

And without lawmakers to wine and dine, what would become of Transparency in the Cost of Health Care? Who doesn't want transparency? You don't, at least if it means allowing insurance companies to alert your employer to the state of your health and medical prognosis, although supposedly other identifying information would be concealed. Companies could feasibly use your medical status as a reason to, uh, "eliminate your position." Of course, they would never do that, right? Surely not in a right-to-work state where unions have been stripped of their power.

Voting Materials in English: Wait, they are in English. But Republican bill sponsor Andrew Brock wants to ensure they're only in English so citizens whose fluency is a work in progress are disenfranchised. Read between the lines and it's clear the bill targets Latinos, the majority of whom vote Democrat.

This assumes, of course, that Latinos are allowed to vote, since Voter Identification at the Polls requires you to show a photo ID. If you don't drive—and despite what you see on I-40 every day, a lot of people don't—you'll be required get another form of legal identification and present it at the polls.

Who could hate a bill like the Safe Students Act? We want our students to be safe, right? Safe from pedophiles. Safe from bullies. Safe from creationism. This bill requires parents who are enrolling their children in public schools to disclose their kids' immigration status. Not to deny them admission, of course, but only for "fiscal analysis." And not that the "analysis" would ever wind up, say, in the hands of an immigration officer.

We could keep children safe from synthetic pot (accept no substitute for the original, kids), which was the initial intent of Make Synthetic Cannabinoids Illegal. Then, as infuriating as bad ditch weed, the bill turned from a measure about illegal highs to the disingenuously titled No Discriminatory Purpose in Death Penalty—ironically, a repeal of the Racial Justice Act, which was passed in 2010 after evidence showed there is discrimination in how the death penalty is handed down. Heralded as a victory for human and civil rights, the RJA allowed death-row defendants who could prove race factored into a jury's sentencing to have that sentence commuted to life without parole.

Many offenders wind up on death row for killing people with guns. Let's not allow that inconvenient statistic stop the Legislature from passing the N.C. Firearms Freedom Act, which prohibits the federal government from regulating the sale of most guns (excluding weapons that require more than one person to carry them) and their accessories within the state's borders. After all, states' rights should supersede public safety.

Presumably you can use a gun to Protect Landowner Water Rights. This bill prevents government from limiting the amount of water you can withdraw not just from your private well, but from publicly owned waterways that happen to run through your property. The greater good be damned!

Apparently the GOP is very concerned about fairness, especially for its friends and campaign contributors. House Majority Leader Paul Stam sponsored Tax Fairness in Education, which props up his buddies in the private school industry at the expense of public schools. Families whose household income is less than $100,000 can receive a tax credit of $2,500 per child if they withdraw their kids from public schools and enroll them in private schools or homeschool them.

Level Playing Field/ Local Government Competition prohibits cities and counties from building their own broadband networks, becausecall a waaambulance!the telecommunications companies claimed the competition was unfair. Even though these telcos refuse to extend broadband service to rural North Carolina. Even though their service is often substandard. Even though these companies have received millions of dollars in tax breaks from the state. Now that's unfair.

Such a dull-sounding title, Consumer Finance Act Amendments, but if you're a predatory lender, it sounds like money. These shady businesses could increase the size of the loan to an amount you are incapable of repaying—while adding fees and hiking the interest rate to as much as 36 percent. Even if your loan is just $1,500, that's an extra $540 in interest you could owe.

Selective Vegetation Removal: No, sadly it's not an election reform bill to boot Stam out of office. While the title leads you to believe North Carolinians can improve their topiary skills, in its original form the measure would have forced local governments to allow digital billboards within their jurisdictions. The bill was likely inspired by Durham City Council's refusal to erect these eyesores, but other local governments decided they would like to control their own appearance, and the language was pruned. Now it's merely a bad bill permitting outdoor advertising companies to cut down trees so you can see that Dixie Gun & Knife Show billboard more clearly.

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