Some folks seek public office for the purpose of serving the public, but I think most seek public office for the purpose of power.
Everybody wants some level of power in their lives. It’s natural to want a domain over which you command. Of course, some take that need for power to an unhealthy extreme.
Normal is keeping your lawn nicely mowed. After all, one should take great pride in that which he commands. Abnormal is beating your wife with a frying pan.
In the theater of public office, normal is wanting to eventually be elevated to chair a committee in the legislature in order to influence public policy for the betterment of one’s constituency. Abnormal is devoting the work of a public body to maintaining a political party’s power or strengthening its base of power.
I think even the people who go into politics with the best of intentions usually get caught up in the game of politics. It is addicting, and there is nothing like the flavor of a win in one’s mouth.
There’s nothing wrong with that on the face of the charge. However, when the taste of the win becomes more important than the good of the people “served” that is a big problem.
When I look at the N.C. General Assembly and the product produced by that body I see cause for concern.
Since the 2016 elections, the two houses of the legislature have worked hard to limit the powers of the new democratic governor. They passed pieces of legislation which require confirmation of various members of the governor’s cabinet and stripped the governor’s authority to appoint members of other public bodies.
They reworked local boards of elections to give the GOP the advantage on those boards.
They aren’t done. Bills which would downsize the court of appeals and make district and superior judge races partisan have passed both chambers. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed both, and he saw his veto of the latter bill overridden.
The downsizing bill is meant only to ensure Cooper doesn’t place democrats in the three seats which will be vacated due to those judges hitting the mandatory retirement age.
Another bill introduced in the senate would require all local elections to be partisan. GOP leaders are hoping the swing to the red column will allow the party to garner more local seats, as many people vote a straight party ticket.
All of these matters have drawn a large amount of attention from the legislature, but how do they serve the public? They don’t. They serve the interests of the party which reigns over the legislature — the interests of maintaining or grabbing more power for the GOP.
I hear a lot about school funding, and one bill which has been discussed quite a bit is House Bill 13. The bill passed the House of Representatives, but the Senate has yet to pass it. It would pull back some restrictions on class sizes.
If that bill doesn’t pass, education professionals say that either local governments will have to fill a large funding void or programs such as music and art will have to be cut.
School officials have long lobbied for a bill which would give them more flexibility at the local level in setting the school calendar. Two such bills have passed the House, but they haven’t come out of committee in the Senate.
A school funding matter spearheaded by a Surry County commissioner also has yet to go anywhere. House Bill 333 and Senate Bill 166 would allow county governments to use a sales tax which may be levied for public transportation to fund school capital needs instead.
N.C. Sen. Shirley Randleman, who represents Surry County, sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
Those bills haven’t made it out of committee.
I can’t really see that there is anything more important than educating tomorrow’s leaders, but I’m not sure today’s leaders think it’s a priority.
Instead, it’s clear their priority is to pass partisan legislation meant only to solidify or expand their political power.
I’m a Republican because I’m a fiscal conservative, and I believe in small government. However, I also aligned myself with the party because I believed it was the party which placed good government in a higher regard than political power — the party which sat on the moral high ground as the other side of the aisle pushed a partisan agenda for the special interests it serves.
I’m not sure that’s true here in North Carolina.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.