Redistricting - What Went Wrong
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What Went Wrong With the D's Plan?
According to the Democrat party line, Republican leaders are forcing members to sign loyalty oaths so the leaders can control them. The Dems want people to think those who sign pledges are being disloyal to those who elected them. If the Republican party enforced compliance like the Democrats, the writers might have a point. But Republicans don't. Republican leaders lack the power built through a century of one party rule.
What the public needs to realize is that the Republican House caucus is sometimes called the Raucus Caucus because all of the members tend to be fiercely independent. Usually this is good, but on certain votes with great party significance, it can be a problem. If a few members are willing to ignore their fellows, they can cut deals for themselves at the expense of the rest of the caucus. The actions of a few can greatly harm the whole party.
The session started with an excellent demonstration of the problems this can cause, when Jim Black was elected Speaker because a few Republicans had agreed to support him without waiting to see whether this would be the best course for all concerned. Some may have received personal benefits. Others may have simply believed the false promises of bipartisan leadership. In any event, the private deals destroyed any chance to make a better deal for all concerned.
Because of that recent lesson in the dangers of freelancing, the Republican caucus members pressured the leadership to ask for pledges to vote with the caucus on redistricting. Republicans who claim to support the party and its platform should want to be sure that redistricting gives Republican supporters a fair chance to elect representatives. But if a few Republicans trade their votes for personal benefit, like a district designed to benefit them, the Democrats can draw a map that guarantees Democrat control.
Jim Black has now admitted that it is his intent to draw a map that will disenfranchise Republican voters. He thought he could buy the Republican votes he needed to pass a map with 70 or more Democrat districts. He thought he could buy votes like he did at the start of session. So far, he's been wrong.
Democrats Shut Down Weekly News
Legislative Week in Review is the UNC-TV report on what happens in the legislature. Of course, because they are actually part of a state agency, their coverage is not exactly independent. In fact, they frequently provide disclaimers when covering stories because they recognize the problems inherent in government controlled "news."
But when it comes to reporting on redistricting, we don't have to worry about biased coverage, because Legislative Week in Review isn't reporting anything. That's right . . .the biggest story of the 2001 session isn't being reported at all on Legislative Week in Review because they were told to shut down.
The legislature hasn't shut down by any means. While the Senate has been put on standby rather than meeting daily, that's because the focus of the action is the closely divided House.
The Senate is so controlled by the Democrat bosses that rubberstamping the leadership decisions doesn't take much time. The House, on the other hand, is so closely divided that the leadership frequently loses control.
And when the leadership loses control, it can be entertaining. Earlier this month, the leaders lost control of the Bill Lee Act, and the results were so hilarious that I wanted to get a tape of the action to take home to share with my husband. It was funnier than any recent movie.
Many people don't realize that it is possible to listen in to the sessions of the House and Senate, as well as any activities in the Finance or Appropriations Committee rooms, if they have a sound card in their computer and internet access. Just go to www.ncleg.net and look for the Audio section. I can't promise it will always be wildly exciting, and it is seldom as funny as the Bill Lee Act discussion, but it is a great way to learn what your representatives are actually doing in Raleigh.
Pakistanis from NY Come to NC
…for Driver's Licenses
Recently three Pakistanis were arrested because they were trying to use phony ID info to get "valid" NC driver's licenses. They told the judge they came here to get a license because it was so easy compared to other states. Wonder why?
I can't say, but I can say that last week's events certainly gave me a few new ideas on the subject. Last week a bill aimed at discouraging underage drinking reached the House floor. It raised the penalty for securing or using a phony ID to the level of a class 1 misdemeanor. It also instructed DMV to establish a database of driver's license info to be used by retail merchants to easily establish the age of prospective customers electronically.
To me, it seemed wildly inconsistent to set a penalty for buying a fake ID higher than the penalty for obtaining a real NC driver's license by using false information. It also seemed to me that the database established for the merchants should be available to boards of election that wanted to use it to verify voter addresses. After all, the Motor Voter legislation passed a few years ago encouraged voter registration of driver's license applicants, and we know we have many, many thousands of invalid driver's licenses, many probably held by nonresidents.
To address these concerns, I asked to have 2 amendments prepared. One would raise the penalty for using false information to get a government issued picture ID (like a driver's license) to a class 1A misdemeanor, just one step higher than the penalty for buying a totally false ID. The other would authorize boards of election to access the DMV database to verify addresses. Since I don't like playing gotcha, I told the House floor manager of the bill, Rep. Phil Baddour, what I planned to offer as amendments.
Rather than supporting the amendments, Rep. Baddour said that if I insisted on offering them, he would simply pull the bill. He finally agreed to permit the first amendment, but only at the class 1 level, so I offered that amendment and it passed unanimously. Better than nothing, I suppose.
Why Are The Lines So Long At DMV?
Could it be because only NC's Executive Branch is foolish enough to want to sell driver's licenses to people from all over the world without regard to North Carolina residence? This may sound ridiculous, but consider the following:
When a bill to permit DMV to register driver's license applicants for the draft reached the House Appropriations Committee, it was waylaid by a number of lawmakers who were upset by the fact that DMV was ignoring the law and issuing licenses to people who didn't even have a social security number. As Rep. Jeff Barnhart pointed out, the manual at DMV says to put in 9's if the applicant lacks a real SSN.
The DOT representative said she thought there might be an attorney general's ruling that authorized ignoring the law, but the bill was held up to get more information.
At the next meeting of the committee, little info was provided, but the bill was rushed through, despite the fact that 388,000 licenses have already been issued with no SSN. At the rear of the committee room, irate members met with Wayne Hurder of DOT and asked for the promised information, including the legal justification for ignoring the law. They also asked for assurance that the law would be followed, but were told that changes would await the January 1 effective date of new budget provisions.
Subsequently House members amended another bill to require DMV to retrieve the invalid licenses with no SSN. Democrat leaders objected, but the amendment passed. As some of us observed, they might not be able to retrieve all of the bad licenses, but it might encourage the executive branch to at least quit issuing more bad licenses. At last report, the number is now 399,000 and rising.