Editorial: Raleigh political storm fueled by puppies

Feb. 03, 2014 @ 04:14 PM

It wasn’t just the weather. Last week brought an unusual winter political storm.

The Republican who leads the Finance Committee in the state Senate accused the Republican governor of a “flagrant violation of power” and used an unprintable epithet to describe his fellow Republican lawmakers who pushed a bill favored by the governor, a bill that the senator calls an “abomination.”

And we know all this because someone secretly recorded the senator’s comments and released a transcript to the Raleigh News & Observer and other media.

The winter is pretty lean for political battles in Raleigh, let alone intra-party fights involving arm-twisting, abominations and subterfuge, so this was welcome news in the news business.

Better yet: The subject of this furor? Puppies.

Who could get so angry about a bill involving puppies? Apparently, at least Rabon can.

House Bill 930 would impose standards of care, such as access to food, water and shelter, on large commercial dog breeders. The intent is to crack down on so-called puppy mills.

Gov. Pat McCrory has made it one of his top legislative priorities. First lady Ann McCrory, a noted dog lover, is all over it.

It isn’t that Sen. Bill Rabon of Southport, who in civilian life is a veterinarian, is against what the bill aims to do. He just says the bill doesn’t go nearly far enough, not by a long shot, and he feels so strongly about it that he has vowed to kill it and pass a tougher bill that would ban animal gas chambers — one of the main methods animal shelters use to put unwanted pets to death — and establish a statewide animal-abuse hotline.

Animal welfare groups favor the bill, apparently preferring a good bill that can pass rather than waiting for pie in the sky.

In a private meeting a couple of weeks ago with animal advocates in his home county of Brunswick — where the secret recording was made — Rabon said McCrory “bullied” the bill out of committee in the House.

House lawmakers approved it because “they are a bunch of (expletive),” Rabon screamed at the meeting, the News & Observer reported. “They got political heat. They said, ‘We can no longer sit on this. We know the Senate will not pass it because it is a piece of crap, so we will send it to them and they will take the heat.’ Ladies and gentleman, that is politics 101.”

But wait, it gets better.

The News & Observer’s story says Rabon said that McCrory personally pressed him to approve the bill. “I will quote your governor: ‘Well, Bill, what in the hell is wrong with a bill that just makes people feel good?’”

Janie Withers, the president of Paws-Ability in Brunswick County, told the News & Observer that she recorded the meeting “so no one could accuse me of putting my slant to what Sen. Rabon said.” Withers said Rabon should be ashamed of his behavior in the meeting, and she called Rabon “a little nothing of a man.”

We don’t know the senator, so we can’t judge how little or big he is, but he thinks quite a bit of himself, telling the animal activists that if they want anything passed they will need his support: “The best shot you folks ever have, you are talking to.”

Maybe he’s just that powerful.

But even if he’s not, it looks like Rabon has had his way for now.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s office says that the puppy mill bill will not be considered in the 2014 short legislative session that starts in May.