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Local government: the new pride and prejudice

On faith and fuckery



Fuckery, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, is "absolute bullshit; utter nonsense; something rather suspicious that can bring forth uneasy, angry or irritated feelings. A stunt pulled by people who don't know how to tell the truth or enjoy messing with people's heads as a hobby."

Faith, on the other hand, per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is an "allegiance to duty or a person; fidelity to one's promises; sincerity of intentions; fidelity to one's promises ... a firm belief in something for which there is no proof."

When you think of North Carolina's government, which word best fits?

What about when the federal court system declares that 28 of your state's legislative districts are so racially gerrymandered that they're unconstitutional; so engineered to favor one party over another that we must hold a special election in an off year? How about when 45 percent of our legislators run unopposed? Does the General Assembly still possess our collective good faith? Are they our true representatives?

Which word comes to mind when legislation speeds through Raleigh's marble halls to the governor's desk during multiple, expensive special sessions?

HB2 stands out, in part, because of the speed with which it maneuvered through our system. Within one day the bill was introduced and signed into law during the second special session of the year. During the fifth special session, held last week, the General Assembly spent the day arguing with itself about repealing HB2 before going home having done nothing. Now, as the governor says, "the courts will decide."

Since 1986, the General Assembly has held 21 special sessions. Over 30 years, only 15 included special sessions and only two of those years included more than one — 1996 and 2003. Not only did the number of special sessions in 2016 set at least a 30-year record, three special sessions were held in one month and two in one day.

The legislature was supposed to convene only once in December to provide emergency financial relief for those affected by Hurricane Matthew and mountain wildfires.Yet the legislature felt the need to call another special session minutes after passing its disaster relief bill; an extra special session called solely so legislators could say, "See? We only focused on disaster relief in special session three."

All three of December's special sessions included packed public galleries and protests since the people of North Carolina don't trust their representatives.

So, it was no surprise that extra special session four was chockfull with more than two dozen bills. But the fact that the General Assembly held two special sessions in one day wasn't the newsworthy bit. The governor's rare speeches to two legislative committees wasn't even all that newsworthy.

What was newsworthy were the only two bills the General Assembly chose to focus on, the bills limiting the power of the incoming governor. Meanwhile, other bills that dealt with the I-77 toll road or racial profiling or year-end bonuses for state workers and teachers had no chance.

North Carolina's doublespeak habit is not new. In a time when state leaders squawk about "government overreach" they pass measures preventing local governments from doing their work. An example: The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality is party to a multi-state lawsuit in opposition to the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. One of the main claims in that lawsuit involves "government overreach," meaning the federal government is telling the states what to do. At the same time, this summer, a coal-ash bill became law that prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances related to that industrial waste.

That's not normal, either. Usually, federal rules and laws are built upon by the states and then by local governments. In that way, local governments, being closest to the people, can customize things for their communities.

We saw the state's version of government overreach again last week when Senate Republicans reneged on a deal to cleanly repeal HB2 when they filed a bill that would prevent HB2-like local ordinances during a six-month "cooling off period."

What's not mentioned in this week's cover story on that issue is that there was actually a second bill that would have repealed HB2 — the one supported by Democrats as "the deal." There was no vote on that bill.

Now, which word most resonates with you – fuckery or faith?

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