Editorial: Legislature needs a strong dose of sunshine, end shadowy dealings

Tuesday, June 6, 2023 -- North Carolinians displayed faith in their legislative representatives at the ballot box. Legislators should return that trust and act openly. End the routine of secret meetings and done deals. Come out of the closed-door sessions. Voters have a right to see what's really going on.
Posted 2023-06-06T01:02:24+00:00 - Updated 2023-06-06T11:59:10+00:00

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, June 6, 2023; editorial #8852

The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

It should not be a surprise that one of the most prominent of Donald Trump’s election lawyers is involved with legislative Republicans in the crafting of legislation to redo many of North Carolina’s election laws.

The reason it should not be a surprise, however, has nothing to do with the controversial involvement of election denying of Cleta Mitchell or even the unrelenting efforts of the legislature’s GOP leadership to tilt the laws and conduct of elections in their party’s favor.

It wouldn’t have been a surprise or even controversial if the legislature followed its own procedures and rules for introducing, considering, debating and passing bills into law.

The latest elections bill like nearly every other piece of significant legislation – even those that aren’t controversial – is developed in secret, gets discussed in secret in a closed-door partisan caucus where the partisan majority cuts the deals for passage, gets introduced one day, gets ceremonial discussion in a committee a day or two latter, is passed by one chamber and then, in similar fashion is handled by the other chamber. It is a process that only takes a day or two.

Most recently, that’s the way we’ve seen the adoption of the dramatic changes in the state’s abortion laws, mental health reforms, marijuana regulations and even passage of the House and Senate version of the budget where differences are now being secretly negotiated and ironed out.

Days and weeks later the public learns of new revelations of items buried inside new laws that never had any disclosure or public discussion of their inclusion.

Nearly all is done by our representatives without any opportunity for those who put them into office to see (the voters), know and understand what going on, the significance, who’s involved, why they’re involved, and what deals, compromises and concessions are being made.

Now, that’s NOT how it is supposed to work. In fact, the legislature itself provide a detailed map of the way the public is supposed to see “how an idea becomes a law in North Carolina.” Too bad they don’t follow their own directions.

We don’t need to describe it – you can see it right here:

Idea becomes a law in N.C.

Committees are where bills are supposed to be discussed in detail as legislators, those outside the legislature including advocates, lobbyists, citizens who have interests or concerns, can have a chance to be heard, consulted or offer opinions – ALL IN THE PUBLIC VIEW.

As relates to the election bill being offered up in the state Senate, it wouldn’t even be a matter of controversy if Mitchell and her group North Carolina Election Integrity https://voterintegrityproject.com/meet-nceit/ were involved in the legislation. It would have been a normal part of the process – a matter of public discussion and review.

There would have been no need for disingenuous statements like Cleta Mitchell “has had no role in the crafting of this legislation,” from Senate leader Phil Berger when a reporter’s review of the legislation indicated that A substantial portion of the group’s agenda – but not everything – is a part of the latest bill. For example, when it comes to mail-in voting, the group got seven of the nine changes it wanted.

If this legislation were handled in the open through the process illustrated in the legislature’s “How an Idea Becomes a Law in North Carolina,” not everyone might be happy or agreed, but they’d know what was proposed, by whom and how it ended up in the bill. The disclosures likely wouldn’t have required journalistic investigative skills or leaked internal documents to gain routine insights into the roots of legislation.

North Carolinians displayed faith in their legislative representatives at the ballot box.

Legislators should live up to their obligation to return that trust and act openly. End the routine of secret meetings and done deals. Come out of the closed-door sessions with favored special interests. Voters have a right to see what’s really going on.

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