By Scott Mooneyham
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 —
RALEIGH —Legislators will return to the capital next week to figure out what to do about Gov. Pat McCrory’s two vetoes.
Then, the 2013 legislative session should be put to bed for good.
No more bizarre bills about Sharia law. No more Moral Monday protesters being hauled away. No more late-night comics wondering which is really the crazy Carolina.
With months to go before the legislature reconvenes in the spring, much of the controversy surrounding legislation that had state policy taking a hard right turn will die down.
Already, GOP leaders who helped to drive the policy shift are accusing Democratic activists and the media of exaggeration. Maybe they are right, in some cases.
Going forward, though, North Carolina Republicans will be haunted by three key problems resulting from the 2013 legislative session.
n They have cast themselves as anti-public schools.
No single action taken by GOP leaders put themselves in this precarious situation. It’s the totality of their actions and their rhetoric.
Cuts to the education budget, no raises for teachers, the elimination of a popular teacher scholarship program, vouchers for private schooling and the end of teacher tenure all add up to being against public schools in the minds of many teachers and parents.
Senate leader Phil Berger pushed some ideas with which a lot of parents wouldn’t disagree, including emphasis on early-grade reading and making it easier to get rid of poor teachers.
But his rhetoric, like that of other Republican leaders, creates a perception of being aligned against the public schools. Calling teaching groups “dishonest” brokers of the debate, while misrepresenting 4th grade reading scores, does nothing to improve schools.
Neither does calling the public schools “broken” or saying that they offer no choices.
Involved parents know better. They are there, with their feet on the ground at the schools. They know public schools are flawed, but they also know how to negotiate the system to find solutions that work for their children.
n Mammoth changes to election laws generated an initial avalanche of bad press nationally. It won’t go away if local election boards use the laws to make predictions of voter suppression come true.
After talking about voter ID for months, the decision to pursue a raft of other changes making it harder on voters has clearly boomeranged. The only question remaining is how often local boards will bring more attention to the embarrassment.
n It won’t happen in 2014, but the following year some North Carolinians will learn that the $600 million tax cut that legislators approved is actually a tax increase for them.
Middle-class wage earners who operate small businesses on the side are most likely to fall into the category. That’s because legislators, as a part of their tax overhaul, decided to drop a tax exemption, adopted two years earlier, on initial earnings by non-corporate business tax filers.
The three problems are not going to be easily overcome.
That’s the thing about governing. It has permanence.
Scott Mooneyham is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Assciation and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.