by J.J. Summerell
Chair, Libertarian Party of North Carolina
As the majority party in the General Assembly, the Republicans have the power to pass any legislation. Having the power to do something does not give you the right to do it. Might does not make right.
Our democratic system of government depends on allowing everyone’s voice to be heard. The majority has the duty, and the responsibility, not only to respect this principle, but to conduct the legislative process in the open, allowing ample time for public comment and input.
Legislators use misleading and deceptive titles for their bills and the legislative “process” often lumps unrelated issues into one bill. The process is then made even more of a charade by introducing the bill without prior public notice, pushing it through a committee without a public hearing and with little debate, and rushing it to the House floor.
The firestorm raging around an effort to regulate abortion is a classic example of how a majority abuses its power. Regardless of your position on the issues covered by this legislation, there is no defense for the surreptitious and deceitful methods Republicans have employed in an effort to pass the bill.
One wonders why, if the Republicans are so firm and confident in their views, and believe they have such a clear “public mandate,” that they don’t bring each of these issues forward in separate bills, hold open, public hearings, and then vote? What are they afraid of?
Meanwhile, Republican legislators are negligent in fulfilling perhaps their most important duty, passing a state budget. Oddly enough, they began by ignoring the state constitution, which gives the governor the responsibility to draft a budget. Each house passed their own version, leaving the public with the spectacle of Republicans arguing among themselves over three state budgets proposed by three groups of Republicans.
As a result, for the first time in modern history, the General Assembly failed to pass the state budget by the June 30 deadline. So the state government is now operating on a continuing resolution, and the legislative session drones on debating social issues and mythical tax cuts, while racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs to taxpayers.
This is not responsible government, no matter which party is in charge, or who holds the majority.
The Libertarian Party of North Carolina believes that bills should be as simple and to the point as possible. They should cover only one topic and be understood by the average voter. Nor should the legislature add on riders or unrelated amendments. Every bill should only be passed after a clear, open, and public consideration of the proposed law.
Note: This op ed was published in print and online in the July 19 News & Observer.