The doublespeak of reform

The doublespeak of reform

- in Fitzsimon File


State legislative leaders like to throw around the word “reform” when describing their plans for North Carolina. They want to reform our schools, reform our tax code, reform our health care system and reform the state government they now control.

They have an odd definition of the term. Reforming public education means dismantling it with voucher schemes and for profit cyber charters run by unaccountable out of state corporations.

Reforming our tax code means forcing lower-income families and the middle class to pay more so millionaires can pay thousands less.

Reforming health care means refusing Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and denying coverage to 500,000 low income adults who can’t afford health care at the lofty prices the holy free market sells it.

And reforming state government means turning Raleigh into Washington by putting partisan politics ahead of the law and common sense.

That was the version of reform on display Monday night as the House passed legislation that would remove more than 100 people from important policymaking boards and commissions and replace them with Republican appointees.

Never mind that the terms of most of the board members are not expired. The Republicans want power now, not in the normal course of events when it comes time for the new Republican governor to make his appointments.

They apparently think the November election gives them that right. Their victory with their carefully gerrymandered maps certainly gives them the power, but it doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

The power grab essentially means that terms on dozens of powerful boards like the Utilities Commission or Coastal Resources Commission are meaningless. Members now serve until the General Assembly decides they shouldn’t serve anymore, never mind what the law says about their length of service or even what the governor thinks.

The current governor has been mostly quiet about the blatant power grab by his Republican colleagues on Jones Street, saying only that the hyper-partisan legislation was not his idea.

His silence must be interpreted as consent. He could stop the legislation by publicly and loudly opposing it.

Instead he may soon have the opportunity to appoint the majority of the Utilities Commission that will rule on a rate hike request from Duke Energy, where he worked for 28 years.

The House version of the unprecedented power grab is a slightly watered down version of a similar plan that passed the Senate that would remove even more board members and replace them with Republican appointees.

The Senate plan would also abolish 12 special superior court judgeships created to help the overcrowded and underfunded court system.

The two sides will now try to work out the differences between the two plans and the only hope is that legislative egos on both sides will make a final compromise difficult to reach.

Defenders of the power grab like Rep. Nelson Dollar say it’s all about reform, pointing to boards and commissions that are reduced in size to support the ludicrous claim.

If Dollar and his fellow Republicans want to make the boards smaller, they can simply shrink them by not filling the seats when terms of appointees expire.

But there’s no partisan gain in that. They don’t want to simply reduce the size of a few boards, they want to sweep them clean and put their own ideological appointees in place.

That’s not reform at all and Dollar knows it.

It’s the kind of disingenuous doublespeak we’ve come to expect in Washington. Sadly it’s now on full display in Raleigh too.