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A fair and balanced legislature is best for the people of North Carolina

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

In the United States, and in North Carolina, we learn at an early age the concept and practice of fairness, which is the quality or state of being fair. In our legal system, we allow adversaries to hear evidence, to question witnesses and encourage jurors to take the facts and render a fair and just verdict.

The point is we consider our society to be a nation of justice and fairness.

Yet the North Carolina House members have changed rules of fairness that have been in place for more than a decade.

If you have not been keeping track, the N.C. House Republicans voted to remove the rule on veto-override votes. Previously, the House rules passed and approved stated that House members could not vote to override a gubernatorial veto “until the second legislative day following notice of its placement on the calendar.

The new rule flies in the face of fairness, which is a dying concept in these days of political partisanship. The notion is fading that elected officials represent the people. Many representatives focus on supporting a political cultural and power agenda, fairness be damned.

An example of one-sided government is the change of Feb. 15, when the NC House of Representatives passed a rule that allows votes to override Governor Cooper’s, and future governors’ vetoes, without notifying House legislators before a vote is taken.

This is a significant change and one that lacks transparency and fairness for the people of North Carolina. The prior rule did not permit a vote to override a gubernatorial veto until the second legislative day, following notice of its placement on the calendar. This rule has been in place for many years and has worked for the legislators, the governor and, most importantly, the residents of North Carolina.

With a Republican majority, the rule changes make it imperative that Democratic legislators be present if they hope to support a veto by the governor. Why is this? It’s because the Speaker has the power to change the order of business. Legislators now rely on the fairness and transparency of the Speaker’s actions. Is this possible, given the partisanship we have witnessed over the 12 years of Republican control of the Legislature and the Speakership?

Who wins in this situation? You would think voters rely on legislators and the governor to work together for the betterment of the people, not their political agenda for gaining more and more power over government and the people who elected them to govern for the good of the people and the State.

What can be done to address this inequity? Nothing at this time. The voters of the State ultimately are the decision-makers if they support this form of power-grab government.

It is not enough for Republicans to suppress the vote across the country, including North Carolina, it is clear the Republicans are laser-focused on changing the outcomes of all elections in their favor. Their reward? To appoint officials who will claim ‘voter fraud’ in elections if their party’s candidates lose?

Our nation is in peril as democracy continues to be attacked. Our enemies are watching for the chance to take advantage of our divisive political and social culture to use cyber and possibly military force to attack.

Don’t take these power grabs as singular events. Ask yourself: Who can protect our democracy? It is not the politicians.

It is the people and voters of North Carolina and the nation.

Virgil L. Smith formerly served as president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times and Vice President for Human Resources for the Gannett Company. He is the principal for the Smith Edwards Group and the author of "The Keys to Effective Leadership - Understanding Who You Are and Tips on Being a Successful Leader." He is the founder and writes for Carolina Commentary.

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