Governor Pat McCrory hasn’t said much about the spiteful power grab by Senate Republicans to void a lease agreement between the state and the City of Raleigh that would turn the Dorothea Dix land into a destination park.
The lease was finalized during the waning days of the Perdue Administration and duly approved by the Council of State. Republicans howled at the time, particularly Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who slammed the deal and attacked Perdue personally for a series of actions taken at the end of her administration.
Now Berger’s key lieutenants want to want to take the extraordinary step of passing legislation voiding a lease that was legally and properly negotiated and signed with Raleigh officials.
Supporters of the park are understandably furious, and whatever you think of the agreement to lease the land for a park, it’s hard to overstate the troubling precedent the legislation would set.
Why would any business or government have any reason to ever negotiate with North Carolina officials again if any legally binding agreement can simply be overturned by vengeful politicians a couple of months after it is signed?
McCrory was asked at a December press conference what he thought of Perdue finishing the Dix deal and making other moves before she left office, and he said simply, “She is the governor. That’s how I feel about it. She has the authority to make those moves.”
McCrory added that he would have preferred for Perdue to wait and allow him to have some input on the Dix lease, though he did say he was “all for the park.”
McCrory’s response was refreshingly mature at the time and stood in stark contrast with Berger’s snarling partisanship and personal attacks.
But where is McCrory now, and why won’t he speak up again about the power grabbing in the General Assembly by his fellow Republicans?
It’s not just the Dix deal. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would redraw the districts for the Wake County Board of Education because they are not happy that Democrats reclaimed a majority on the board in the 2011 elections.
The current districts were redrawn after the 2010 census by the law firm of Republican attorney Kieran Shanahan, who is currently McCrory’s Secretary of Public Safety. Apparently the Republican-drawn districts weren’t Republican enough for legislative leaders.
Another bill would similarly redraw school board districts in Guilford County too because Republicans in Raleigh aren’t happy with that school board either
There are plenty of more examples of blatant power grabbing by the General Assembly that is happening alongside the devastating policy decisions not to expand Medicaid, to deny emergency unemployment benefits to 170,000 laid off workers, and to abolish the state Earned Income Tax credit that helps low-wage workers and their families.
McCrory signed those regressive bills in private ceremonies after initially asking the Senate to slow down the legislation that refused to expand Medicaid and provide health care coverage to 500,000 people.
Senate leaders ignored him then and he has for the most part stayed out of the major political debates in the legislative halls even as they are shaping North Carolina’s future.
McCrory was briefly front and center last week when he presented his budget, a cautious, meager proposal that was described as pragmatic only because people expected another round of the slash and burn budgets passed by McCrory’s friends in the General Assembly in the last two years.
But now legislative leaders are dominating the headlines again with absurd ideas like ripping up a legal agreement between Raleigh and the state.
The General Assembly is clearly out of control and intoxicated with its own supermajority power, voiding leases, taking over local airports, inserting themselves in local elections.
One self-described conservative said at a public hearing Monday night that the legislative session was becoming a debacle. And he’s right. Someone with the maturity and the power needs to step up and rein in the power-mad lawmakers.
There’s only person in town that can do something about it.
The question is, will he?
Chris Fitzsimon is Director of NC Policy Watch and an NC Spin Panelist.