Elections have consequences, the old saw goes, and in North Carolina those consequences are limited only by Republican leaders’ imaginations. On Tuesday, the consequences expanded to include 131 heads on a platter.
The Senate Rules Committee passed a bill on party lines Tuesday that fires every member of eight key boards and commissions. Once that dirty work is done, the bill states, the Republicans will replace them with their hand-picked substitutes.One of the important commissions scheduled for this Soviet-era type sudden erasure is the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (see post immediately down-column). The North Carolina Coastal Federation had something to say about the "Republican imagination" in this particular case:
A radical bill introduced [yesterday] in the N.C. Senate completely overturns decades of work by state lawmakers and governors to promote balance and partnerships into how the state manages its environment.
Instead, Senate Bill 10 fires all existing members of the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) and N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC), replaces them with a much fewer number of members, and directs that new members will represent business and industry at the expense of local governments, scientists, fishermen, foresters, and coastal residents and vacationers.
In the case of the CRC, existing requirements that a majority of its members not earn substantial income from coastal land development activities are being eliminated, along with a requirement that most of its members actually live at the coast. Moreover, the proposed bill may violate federal conflict of interest requirements that allow the EMC members and the state to enforce federal laws. This could mean that EPA will be forced to take over the review and enforcement of air and water quality permits in N.C.
“This is a power grab by a small handful of economic interests that profit off of the use of our environment,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the N.C. Coastal Federation. “It puts the foxes completely in charge of the hen house.”
The Governor will also lose much of his power to shape these administrative commissions. Four of the eleven CRC members will now be appointed by the legislature instead of the entire 15 members being appointed by the Governor as now occurs. In the case of the EMC, six of its 13 members would be appointed by the legislature. Currently, the Governor appoints 13 of the commission’s 19 members.
“Over the years, state leaders from both parties have tried to form partnerships to balance all our state’s interests as a way to manage our environment,” Miller said. “The philosophy was to bring everyone to the table, and to work together to resolve vexing environmental needs and issues. This bill trashes that concept in favor of concentrating power among a much less diverse set of environmental stakeholders.”The Clown College at the NC General Assembly does not lack for imagination, and the collective imagination down there is turning decidedly toward civic evil.