Democracy is broken in our state. This much is clear to anyone who has been following North Carolina politics. For the third time in five years we were required to redraw Congressional District lines, because the NC-GOP is apparently incapable of drawing maps that comply with the free and fair elections provisions outlined in the NC Constitution. When asked about it once, Rep. David Lewis quipped, “The only reason North Carolina is 10-3 Republican, is because we could not figure out a way to make it 11-2.”
Extreme partisan gerrymandering is bad for democracy, no matter which Party engages in it… because it deprives the citizens of the most important tool of democracy – the ability to hold elected officials accountable. As a candidate, I have no desire to be above accountability, in fact, I welcome it.
Outside of North Carolina, gerrymandering is the best-known and most talked about way in which democracy here is broken. For those here in The Tarheel State, it is just one of many examples, just in recent months.
Currently, we are now more than 200 days without a budget, and this hurts the citizens of our state in many ways, not the least of which that teachers are not getting adequate raises, or in many cases, not at all (not every teacher gets an increase with step increases.) Additionally, many programs are simply not funded during a budget impasse like this…they are NOT continued at their previous level as often happens at the Federal level.
The budget impasse has put on full display the fact that not only does the NC-GOP have no use for democracy, but in fact have utter contempt for democracy. It begins on 9/11/2019. Of all days, 9/11 – the day heroes were rushing into burning buildings when our democracy was under attack…the NC-GOP had given House Democrats the impression no votes would be taken, that they should go out to the memorials.
With most of the House Democrats gone, Speaker Moore rammed through a veto-override vote on the Governor’s veto of the GOP budget proposal. Now, there WAS quorum…and well over half present did vote to override the veto – all in accordance with the letter of the law. But it violates every spirit and intent of the law – I am pretty sure the NC Constitution did NOT intend for three fifths of 58 percent of a Chamber to be able to override a Gubernatorial veto, and I am pretty sure the voters that approved the Constitutional Amendment giving the Governor veto powers also did not intend that.
That set up the impasse which has dragged on to this day, in the Senate, where things are a little different. There, 24 hours advance notice is required before any vote can be called. And every day, the budget veto override has been on the agenda. And every day, Sen. Berger has refused to call the vote. Because every day, all 21 Democratic Party Senators have been there, depriving them of the number they need to override the veto. They even refused to vote with all fifty Senators present – because 21 Democrats were there, and thus the override vote would fail.
If you will only hold a vote when you know you will get the outcome you want, why even bother voting? That is not democracy! The final insult came from Sen. Tillman, who told Sen. Jackson that they would vote when they wanted to…and that Tillman hoped Jackson would be absent when that vote was taken. Bear in mind that Sen. Tillman is a former Social Studies teacher!!
And this is where democracy is totally broken. We no longer have three co-equal branches of government, as is called for by the NC Constitution.In 1996, the voters, by Constitutional Amendment, gave the Governor veto powers (the last state in the nation to do so) – but the Governor has a ten day limit in which to veto legislation from the General Assembly, but the General Assembly has no time limit in which to override a veto…leading to the impasse we have today.
When I am elected, I will work to pass a bill through the Senate and the House, to place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot, imposing an equivalent 10-day limit on the legislature to override gubernatorial vetoes. If they are unable to do so within the ten days, then the veto stands.
This would force the NC-GOP to come to the table and negotiate in good faith – which is how democracy is supposed to work. As it stands now, there is nothing to force them to do this, and they have displayed no interest in doing so. And I contend this situation violates the principle of co-equal branches of government as outlined in the NC Constitution.
Yes, I am running to be elected, because I want to work…and because I want to make this government work for the citizens of North Carolina. All of them.