VOICES: North Carolina's arrogant and vindictive Senate

By Chris Fitzsimon, NC Policy Watch

Senator Tommy Tucker from Union County is the latest member of the General Assembly receiving national attention, and his 15 seconds of fame may be the most revealing incident yet about the folks currently in charge of the legislative branch of government in North Carolina.

Tucker made headlines this week for telling a North Carolina newspaper publisher, "I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet."

Tucker's display of ego and arrogance comes on the heels on legislators prompting national outrage for equating Islamic prayer with terrorism and calling for the establishment of a state religion while vowing that North Carolina is not subject to the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

As bizarre and shocking as those actions were, Tucker's berating of a citizen he is supposed to be representing wasn't all that surprising. That's the way the General Assembly, especially the Senate, is run these days.

The folks in charge not only want to make sure you know they are in charge, they want your obedience, not your questions or doubts and certainly not your disagreements. It's clear they not only have an ideological agenda to pursue, they have scores to settle from their years in the minority.

That chip on their collective shoulder is obvious every day in big and small ways, from terse and snarling admonitions to people daring to speak out against the majority at committee meetings to brazenly writing controversial legislation in secret gatherings with only a handful of friendly special interests in the room.

It's come through in their war on cities, their moves to seize airports and void leases and take over local water systems.

It started in the Senate in the session's first week when no outside speakers were allowed as a Senate committee considered legislation that would deny health care to 500,000 low-income people and cost hospitals $13 billion in revenue.

That committee meeting didn't even last the full hour. Senate leaders were there to enforce their will, not have a real legislative hearing about health care for a half a million people.

It was happening this week as an angry Senator all but shouted down his Democratic colleagues who pointed out the numerous problems with his punitive proposal to drug-test all applicants for public assistance.

The Senate Rules chair walked out of House committee meeting a few weeks ago after discovering that his bill was changed, slamming the door as he left the room.

Another senator could barely contain his fury recently during a debate about charter schools when a colleague suggested that maybe it would be good idea to require the schools to conduct criminal background checks of teachers and administrators.

No dissent is allowed. No tough questions either.

The attitude comes though even in press releases from Senate leaders. They don't just announce positions on issues, they take nasty partisan shots every chance they get.

This is an angry, bitter, and vindictive Senate. Don't get in their way. Don’t ask to speak. Don't question the way they twist and contort Senate rules. And for goodness sakes don't stand up and tell them you disagree.

Sit down and be quiet. They know better. They are Senators after all. You are just lowly citizens.