Editorial: Legislators get negative reviews

Apr. 24, 2013 @ 08:18 AM

It’s a given that the majority of North Carolina voters either are conservative or lean that way on a great many issues.

Perhaps that’s why most of them don’t seem to like what they see coming out of the General Assembly this year.

Public Policy Polling reported on Monday that the General Assembly has an approval rating of just 20 percent; the legislature gets a thumbs-down vote from an eye-opening 56 percent. If that were the result in an election, it would be called a landslide.

That’s better than the 9 percent rating that Congress won in a PPP poll in January, but not by much.

How does a two-thirds-majority Republican legislature get such poor reviews from the voters who put these very legislators in office less than six months ago?

Perhaps partly by throwing money around and trying to overrule local decisions.

Want to give parents more flexibility to send their kids to private schools? Probably most people wouldn’t have a problem with the concept. But if you want to spend $90 million over two years to do it – well, suddenly that looks extravagant. Where’s that money coming from?

Want to ensure the integrity of the voting process? Great. Popular argument in this state. But to do it in a way that makes sure that no one who is a bona fide citizen is blocked from voting will cost $3.7 million. All to prevent in-person voter fraud, which happens less than shooting stars, but doing nothing to stop absentee-ballot voter fraud. There’s gotta be a better, less expensive way.

And a provision in that voter ID bill would call for looking into creating a new, on-demand database allowing poll workers to instantly check the IDs presented to them with a central bank of IDs. No one has guesstimated the cost of that, but the Office of State Auditor confirmed this week that the state has an awful habit of undertaking massive computer projects and badly underestimating the cost, to the tune of nearly $360 million in overruns just during the past four years. In the face of that, a prudent person might ratchet back faith in IT projects.

And then there are all the big-government proposals coming out of this legislature, which Rob Christensen of the Raleigh News & Observer tallied last week, including: dictating to specific towns and school boards what kind of elections they have to have; taking control of what had been the city-operated airport in Charlotte and city-operated water system in Asheville; and blocking local governments from being able to make their own decisions on a number of things, from cellphone tower appearance to zoning.

The report on PPP’s poll goes down a list of legislation that has horrid reviews from voters:

Only 25 percent overall (and only 26 percent of Republicans) like the idea of requiring college students to vote in their home district rather than at college -- and taking away the parents’ tax deduction if their child votes at college.

Only 22 percent overall (29 percent of Republicans) want to eliminate the state’s requirements for renewable-energy production by utilities.

And only 6 percent want to allow legislators to receive gifts from lobbyists. Yes, you read that right. There is a bill in the General Assembly to allow the people who create the laws to accept gifts from people who would like to see favorable loopholes and provisions in those laws.

The poll does not reveal liberal-conservative divides. It reveals broad agreement across party lines on what constitutes ordinary common sense. Unfortunately not much of it resides in the General Assembly.