While it is true that every week on Jones Street is a banner week—and by "banner week" we mean a week spent making North Carolina dumber, poorer, meaner, more violent, more polluted and increasingly subservient to rich people's bank accounts—the General Assembly really outdid itself last week. Yes, the end of session nears, which means every languishing wackadoo idea gets its moment in the sun. And yes, we know, what else is new?
But still, damn.
We'll begin with the fact that, even though we don't yet have a budget (you had one job), at least nine of our esteemed lawmakers flew out to San Diego to take marching orders from the American Legislative Exchange Council, that Koch brothers–backed outfit that inspires many of the crack-ass bills state reps all over the nation affix their names to. Give it up for 21st-century democracy, y'all!
The lawmakers who stuck around didn't do us any favors, either. Let's review of some recent, um, "accomplishments":
House Bill 562 This MORE GUNS! bill passed the state House on the same day a Confederate flag-lovin' South Carolina psychopath shot up an African American church, and it got a favorable report from the Senate Judiciary II Committee on the same day a Tea Party-lovin' Louisiana psychopath shot up a movie theater. (Fun fact: In the first 204 days of 2015, America saw 204 mass shootings, according to the Washington Post.) This bill's not as bad as it would have been had the Senate's earlier version prevailed. The final bill at least preserves the state's background check system and provides a mechanism to keep the mentally ill from accessing guns. Oh, and while you can bring your gun to school, you'll have to keep it locked in your car, which means you'll have to walk out to your car should you need to defend yourself, which seems to defeat the purpose of allowing people to bring guns on school campuses.
House Bill 774 Oh hey! Looks like we're about to get back in the execution business. One of the reasons the state hasn't juiced up any of its 148 death row guests since 2006 is that the law requires doctors to administer the lethal injection, and doctors weren't playing along. (Some nonsense about "do no harm.") Under H.B. 774, however, any EMT or nurse will suffice. Also, the prison won't have to disclose where it got the lethal drugs, so you bleeding hearts won't be able to protest whatever strip-mall pharma company is doing the state's bidding.
House Bill 334 Sure, six N.C. charter schools have closed since 2011, but lawmakers think that's six too many. (Fifty-five have opened since then, FWIW). Because the Department of Public Instruction "has never been in love with charter schools," according to Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore and Randolph, this bill removes charter school oversight from DPI. Instead, it would place the Public Charter School Advisory Board and its funding under control of the state Board of Education, and the governor would no longer appoint its chair.
House Bill 338 This bill, which just cleared the House Appropriations Committee, could send you to jail for driving without a license, but probably not you. See, it's targeted at undocumented immigrants, as—surprise!—penalties escalate if the driver doesn't meet requirements for obtaining a driver's license, such as having a social security number.
House Bill 571 Prolific legislative crazy cat lady Trudy Wade's latest scheme is to prohibit state agencies from complying with the clean-power regs set to be released by the EPA in August. Energy stakeholders, who understand that the carbon-emissions rule is definitely coming, would like to start working on reducing emissions by the required 30 percent. Wade, however, would like state agencies to sit on their thumbs until July 2016, or until all litigation is resolved, whichever comes later. Problem: If North Carolina doesn't develop a compliance plan, the feds will impose one—the very thing the Guilford County senator is trying to avoid.
Senate Bill 22 And finally, how could we forget the Our Dear Confederate Dead Protection Act, which, as the rest of the country debates the appropriateness of public displays honoring those who fought to further human bondage—and yes, that was what the Civil War was about, idiot, go read a book—forbids cities from removing these monuments without approval from the N.C. Historical Commission. Gov. Pat McCrory signed this while also telling civil-rights groups that he can't stop rednecks from getting Confederate flag license plates, sadface.
By the way, while they were doing all this, the state's unemployment jumped to 5.8 percent, the fourth-straight month-over-month increase. So much for the Carolina Comeback.
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This article appeared in print with the headline "Great moments in legislating"