One day of openness
That didn't take long. Republican leaders said in their acceptance speeches and comments to reporters on Wednesday's opening day of the General Assembly that this legislative session would be more open and transparent than past sessions and that the Democrats would have a chance to fully participate in that process.
The next day they broke that promise, ramming legislation through the Judiciary Committee Thursday that would challenge the individual mandate in the national health care law and force Attorney General Roy Copper to join the states suing to stop its implementation.
Judiciary Chair Leo Daughtry denied Democrats' requests for a public hearing and refused to allow anyone outside the committee to speak. No one from the Attorney General's office was consulted or allowed to speak either.
After an hour and half of debate, the committee, whose membership was announced publicly 45 minutes before the meeting, passed the bill on a party line vote.
Putting aside the ridiculous claims made in the ill-advised legislation, the episode sets a troubling tone for the rest of the session. The only thing worse than the way the Republicans rushed the bill through the committee was the series of absurd defenses they offered for the way the legislation was handled.
Rep. Tim Moore said the same bill was introduced last session, which is not true. A resolution asking to allow the bill to be introduced was offered, but not the substance of the bill. And even if the bill had been introduced last year, does that mean it doesn't deserve full debate now?
Rep. John Blust said that no Democrats had protested the way that Congress handled the health care reform bill. Hard to understand the relevance there, but it seems to mean Democrats in the General Assembly should be treated poorly because of how Blust believes Democrats in Congress behaved last year.
House Majority Leader Paul Stam, the principal sponsor of the bill, said he sent out copies of it to thousands of people in the last year and sent committee members a copy on Monday. That apparently means there's no reason to hear from anyone else about it, including the Attorney General who is the focus of the legislation.
Stam offered two more excuses after the meeting. He said the election showed people supported fighting the individual mandate and that a forthcoming poll showed a majority of people in the state supported the specifics in the bill, presumably a poll from the right-wing Pope Civitas Institute, not exactly the most objective place to look to gauge public opinion.
Polls now a substitute for the legislative process. Why even waste time with committee meetings?
Stam compares Democrats to pigs
Stam walked up to House Minority Leader Joe Hackney after the Judiciary Committee meeting to shake hands, saying "good debate."
A few hours later, a gloating Stam told folks at a school privatization meeting sponsored by Civitas and Americans for the Prosperous about the committee debate and ridiculed the objections by Hackney and other Democrats, saying "you should have heard the squeals about how fast we were going. But a stuck pig squeals."
From pledges of openness and cooperation to comparing Democrats to stuck pigs. That's a long way to travel in just one day.
The GOP's real education agenda
Stam just didn't ridicule Democrats at the Thursday night meeting. He also talked about his education priorities for the session and not just the legislation already filed that would lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.
Stam outlined the principles behind that bill, but said he doesn't want to stop there. "I do have somewhat of a dream, that we discard all of those principles and just made all of the traditional public schools charter schools."
And Stam has even bigger dreams than that. He told the audience that he was rounding up sponsors now for a bill that would provide a $2,500 tax credit for parents who home school their children or send them to a private school.
The dismantling of public education is underway.
What happened to jobs, jobs, jobs?
House Speaker Thom Tills was fond of saying during the campaign that the Republicans' priority this session would be jobs, jobs, and jobs. He even wore a wristband with those words on it.
Judging by the first bills introduced by the new Republican leadership, the most pressing issues facing North Carolina are not jobs at all or even addressing the state's $3.7 billion budget shortfall.
They seem to be more interested in trying to stop people from having access to health insurance, kicking the few undocumented students who can afford out of state tuition out of state universities and community colleges, and allowing more charter schools.
Sounds it's like time for a new slogan and a new wristband, maybe one saying "no health care, no education, no public input."