Always a joy to try and wrap up a legislative session in 1200 or so words. This month’s Indy column is just that, with a focus on the last day or so of the short session and what the future portends.
Independent Weekly: A summer of mayhem courtesy of the N.C. Legislature
For an example of the damage an unchecked majority can do when it moves in lockstep, consider the last 30 or so hours of the recent session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
During the homestretch in Raleigh, the Legislature gutted racial justice legislation, defunded Planned Parenthood again, thumbed its nose at forced sterilization survivors and climate-change science, doled out dozens of anti-regulatory favors and not only fast-tracked fracking, but also packed a new board to oversee it with people very friendly to the oil and gas industry.
Some Further Thoughts
I’ve been trying to think through what next year’s session will look like. The election of 2012 should mean a few more Democrats in both the House and Senate, especially if turnout gets to 2008 levels. After that, there’s a major fork in the path of prediction depending on whether Dalton or McCrory wins the race for governor. That’s going to dictate a lot of what happens in the session. By far, the most chaotic outcome would be a McCrory win along with a tightening of the minority/majority margin in the House. You have some big egos and ambitious people in the mix and once you add the possibility that Tillis and Berger are looking at a challenge to Hagan, you’ve got extra volatility. It’s a scenario that could lead to some big initiatives, most likely in education and tax policy, if the players decide to scratch each others’ backs for pet projects.
A Dalton win, even with a sizable gain in the legislature, yields something more like the grind it out style we’re seeing now. North Carolina has a traditionally weak governorship and even with a veto, it’s still pretty much the General Assembly’s world that we’re all living in. It has not been pretty, but even a few more Democratic votes means a lot more breathing room against overrides. Primaries and retirements reduced the number of likely defections. That said, I think we’ll see Dalton walk a fine line on vetoes, taking out some of the social policy sure to be introduced should Stam and Company continue to hold sway, but preferring to cut deals on economic issues and any bill with the word “jobs” in the title.
Right now, I do not see much of a chance for a Democratic takeover of either the NC House or Senate. The House is likely to get closer and maybe even very close, but just around the corner is the mid-term election of 2014. As I’ve said many times, I think that’s where we’ll see the effects of redistricting and the consolidation of GOP electoral strength that began in 2010. Without big turnout and with the strong possibility that Voter ID and further voting restrictions could be in place, 2014 is another 2010 in the making, this time with redrawn districts enhancing the GOP’s chances.