The best one line summary of much of this legislative session came from the N.C. Medical Society Thursday in a statement about the Senate Medicaid plan that turns over the health care program for the most vulnerable people in North Carolina to out of state for profit companies.
The statement began with this.
“Today the Senate had a clear choice between the health of our state’s most vulnerable citizens and the health of Wall Street corporations, and they chose the corporations.”
They certainly did, and it’s not the first time. In fact, it’s a major theme for most of what has happened in the Legislative Building in the last two years.
House and Senate leaders had a clear choice on tax reform between helping low wage workers and struggling families or giving massive windfalls to the rich and big corporations, and they chose the rich and the big corporations.
They currently have a clear choice between protecting our drinking water and forcing Duke Energy to clean up all the leaking coal ash ponds, and they are choosing Duke Energy.
House and Senate leaders also have a clear choice between adequately funding public school classrooms or giving the wealthy and corporations another tax break beginning January 1 of next year, and they are choosing the wealthy and corporations.
Making a point to support discrimination
There are many ways that the summary works, though it doesn’t take into account other issues like the attack on women’s healthcare rights and the continuing discrimination against gay North Carolinians—which was on full display this week too.
Earlier this session, the House passed changes to the state’s charter school law that included a provision that seemed to ban charters from discriminating against gay students. That came after Rep. Paul Stam questioned a proposed amendment that would specifically ban the schools from rejecting students based on their sexual orientation.
Stam claimed that pedophilia was also a sexual orientation, a bigoted comment that drew widespread criticism from across the country. The amendment failed but the House later approved an another amendment that prohibited discrimination based on “any category protected under the United States Constitution or federal law,” which was widely interpreted as protecting gay and lesbian students.
A different version of the bill that passed the Senate did not include the protections and a committee was appointed to work out the many differences between the two proposals.
When that conference report appeared on the House calendar Thursday, it also did not include the House anti-discrimination amendment.
Rep. Tricia Cotham objected and the bill was delayed until Friday, but it’s hard not to conclude that House and Senate leaders, including Senate Education Chair Jerry Tillman, want to allow charter schools to openly discriminate against gay students.
They went out of their way not to protect them in the final conference report.
McCrory at it again
Governor Pat McCrory wandered into the Legislative Building Thursday with his entourage, creating a quite a stir in the hallways and the House Rules Committee, which McCrory seemed to stumble into inadvertently.
McCrory shook some hands and then sat briefly in the Senate gallery, though a floor debate on the controversial Medicaid reform that McCrory opposes was put off before McCrory arrived.
It is rare but not unprecedented for a governor to appear in the Legislative Building unannounced. The odd part of McCrory’s visit was his comments about it. He told reporters that he comes to the building “often just to have interaction. I cut through here on the way to the house, back and forth to the house often.”
The house he is referring to is presumably the Governor’s Mansion. But it is almost impossible to believe that McCrory comes to the Legislative Building often to have “interactions,” since that would almost certainly prompt someone to report his presence and no one ever has.
It’s not the first time McCrory has made odd claims about how he spends his time. Last year he said he often waded out among the Moral Monday protestors, which also seemed highly unlikely, raising the question of why McCrory keeps saying things that aren’t true or at the very least wildly exaggerating how often he interacts with people.
McCrory’s staff said he meant to interrupt the House Rules Committee to say hello to lawmakers, but it seemed more likely he was merely cutting through the meeting room instead of using a hallway that not coincidentally goes by the press room where reporters covering the General Assembly are stationed.
Not many people in the Legislative Building cut through meeting rooms. It’s an unusual building but it doesn’t lack for hallways. All in all, another puzzling episode from the governor.