This week in disappointment: the worst senators money can buy | News Briefs | Indy Week
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This week in disappointment: the worst senators money can buy 

Day to day, week to week, we knew the Legislature was a bottomless vat of purulence. But once we began amassing and assessing the damage—whoa, the mind reels.

Public education? Kaput! Environmental regulations? Dead! Racial justice? Mwwwahh!

Last week we listed the worst state House members; this week the Senate gets its turn.



click to enlarge Bob Rucho
  • Bob Rucho

BOB RUCHO: We'd rather have a root canal—hell, we'd rather have 28 root canals and four wisdom teeth extracted—before seeing the Mecklenburg County dentist enter the Senate chambers again. He sponsored Senate Bill 76, the Domestic Energy Jobs Act, which lifts the lid on fracking and creates the Energy Policy Council, whose charge is to support onshore and offshore drilling in the state.

In addition to votes for the usual Republican bills—voting, abortion, guns—he supported stripping the City of Charlotte of its power over its own airport and a measure allowing kids to distribute religious literature at public schools. Wiccans and pagans, we hope you're listening. Samhain is just three months away.

In a nod to the shady financial industry, Rucho co-sponsored a measure to raise the maximum lending amounts and length of terms on high-interest consumer loans. That's law, folks, so don't be surprised by 30 percent interest rates.

He also supported changing Wake County's school board election schedule (see Barefoot) and forcing Raleigh to renegotiate the Dorothea Dix lease with the state. Why is Rucho so concerned about Wake County politics? There are plenty of dentists here.

As Senate President Pro Tempore, PHIL BERGER is tasked with herding the 49 cats under his care and standing for the voice of reason. Instead, the Rockingham Republican voted for every bad bill. All of them. He never met a bad bill he didn't like. And if last-minute language inserted into a health care measure survives any potential legal challenges, Berger will have the same standing as North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in defending the state against lawsuits on constitutional issues. Now, how can you sleep at night? How can Berger?

click to enlarge Thom Goolsby
  • Thom Goolsby

THOM GOOLSBY's sophomoric screed criticizing "Moron Mondays" protesters is unbecoming a state senator. Plus he supported a bill to eliminate straight ticket voting, which was later folded into the omnibus voting measure. The Wilmington Republican voted for all the wedge issue measures, and gave a thumbs-up to repealing the Racial Justice Act. He tagged along with Rucho on the consumer loan and religion in public schools. Meet at the gym at 2 to pray Goolsby loses the next election.

What was JERRY TILLMAN thinking when he rammed through the multitude of charter school bills? A former public school superintendent, he spent his whole career in public education. And now he's hellbent on dismantling it.

Tillman also co-sponsored the bill—now law—that requires public schools to tell students that abortion is a cause of subsequent premature births and that abstinence is the expected standard for all school age children. All of them? Even 18-year-old seniors? The bill also requires the curriculum to teach that a "monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS." In other words, if you're in a monogamous gay relationship, you should have no such expectations.

Under the banner of reform, HARRY BROWN of Jacksonville led an assault on regulations, including those about consumer loans (see Rucho) and the environment. SB 328, which he co-sponsored with Trudy Wade (see honorable mention) and Brent Jackson, unravels a 2007 law by eliminating buffers between landfills and wetlands while reducing the protective area for national wildlife refuges.

Currently, landfills must be five miles from a national refuge; the new measure called for that to be downsized to a mere 1,500 feet. To get an idea of that distance, imagine the Legislative Building on Jones Street as a landfill and three-tenths of a mile north, William Peace University as a wildlife refuge.

North Carolina has 11 refuges totaling 400,000 acres. Six are within five miles of active and closed landfills. The bill also would no longer require landfill owners to clean and inspect systems that capture liquid that oozes from them. The landfills, not the owners.


HONORABLE MENTION

Rookie of the Year No. 1: Although as a freshman senator CHAD BAREFOOT had little political capital to spend, he took his marching orders. He and his Raleigh cohort NEAL HUNT, also a deserving member of this list, co-sponsored SB 325, which rejiggered the Wake County school board election schedule to favor Republicans. It is now the law. Barefoot also meddled into the affairs of adult college students when he co-sponsored a bill prohibiting members of the opposite sex from living in the same dorm room, suite or campus apartment unless they're married. At 18, you can vote and go to war but you can't choose your campus roommate.

We shouldn't be surprised at such political shamelessness. Barefoot's senate district was gerrymandered just for him to win. And keep this in mind: His mother-in-law, Tami Fitzgerald, is the head of the NC Values Coalition, which supported the abortion restrictions bill, which she called "a great victory for North Carolina."

click to enlarge Trudy Wade
  • Trudy Wade

Rookie of the Year No. 2: As progressives in Guilford County know well, TRUDY WADE was a train wreck of a county commissioner and a city councilwoman. Unfortunately, she brought her derailment to the state senate. A fellow traveler with Harry Brown on the landfill bill, Wade advocated for relaxing environmental regulations on Jordan Lake. How will we clean up Jordan Lake? Fans! Giant floating fans! The state budget allocates $2 million for a pilot project to aerate the 14,000-acre lake.

We're awarding an honorable mention to TOM APODACA of Hendersonville for his vote in support of fracking and abortion restrictions and his sponsorship of the Election Reform Act. The election language was later rolled into the omnibus voting bill and repealed the voluntary public financing of elections, including those for judge. The judicial component is particularly important because lawyers, bail bondsmen and other special interests that appear in court can contribute campaign money to judges, creating potential conflicts of interest.


DUMBEST QUOTE FOR A SENATOR

"It's not repressive at all."—Ron Rabin, R-Harnett, about SB 589, the omnibus voting bill. According to WRAL, Rabin said that elections cannot be run "like American Idol, where you can dial it in and there's no way to know who votes how many times."

Too bad: We were going to nominate Clay Aiken for governor.


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  • Public education? Kaput! Environmental regulations? Dead! Racial justice? Mwwwahh!

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