Tuesday, March 25, 2008

“Getting Better All the Time”

For some reason, last week seemed surprisingly upbeat. Even though the line of the song “it can't get no worse” popped up occasionally, as in the Beatles song, the good far outweighed the bad. The information sent my way has been quite useful, and more is always welcome. If you have information you think I’d find helpful, send it to me at Observations@alltel.net. Thanks.

In addition to information, last week I received some wonderful comments from readers. (Who doesn’t like kind words?). Being a writer has been a lot more fun than being a legislator. One of the greatest frustrations of being in the legislature was the failure of the press to tell the public what was actually happening in Raleigh, and now I’m getting the chance to tell the stories the other papers won’t cover. What fun!

Plus, last Saturday I ran into a retired public school teacher who had benefited from the alternative certification legislation I’d worked so hard to pass as a legislator. Not only was he appreciative for what I’d done, he told me of meeting one of his former students earlier in the day who had thanked him for helping her turn her life around, so I know what I did was not just of benefit to him, but also benefited his students.

Most people are completely unaware of the things that government does that affect lives, and that’s a classic example. There was (and still is) a serious shortage of teachers, particularly in the math/science area, yet rather than recruit people with needed skills, government had made it difficult for accomplished individuals to go into teaching.

Years ago, that gentleman had approached me to vent, as he put it, because he had been teaching, was well received by his students, and enjoyed the work, but he was being required to spend so much time taking courses about things he already knew that he was planning to quit teaching. When I pointed out the legislation that made it possible for him to continue doing what he loved without wasting so much time and money on worthless courses covering things he already knew, he was amazed.

The law was simple. It required people with expertise in needed fields to pass the same tests required of education majors on the same time table in order to be certified to teach, and it put in additional oversight to weed out those not skilled at teaching. It made a lot of sense, but it interfered with a cash cow for the university system, because it made skills, rather than paying for courses, the key factor in certification.

That was one of many fights I won in Raleigh that went pretty much unreported, because if the public knew too much, it would be hard to label honest people ineffective to get rid of them. And the labeling done in Raleigh is as honest as Jim Black, done by the same crowd that supported Black until the courts pried him out of the legislature.

Blogs bring improvement

While it is true, on the minus side, that one party rule is still alive and well in Raleigh and few seem willing to take on the press or the leadership of either party to demand more openness, I’m seeing openness creeping in through the internet. I’m learning more reading blogs, including reporter blogs, than makes it into papers.

Jack Betts had a great blog last week talking about the poor handling of the complaint I filed against Pryor Gibson. (March 12, 2008 post at http://jackbetts.blogspot.com/) He actually agreed with me that the complaint was poorly handled by the Legislative Ethics Committee. (Betts is still under the misimpression that the issue was a questionable call over whether the bill was controversial rather than the clear fact that Gibson claimed he had cleared the bill with other legislators when he had not, but that’s understandable considering Glazier’s mischaracterization of the complaint.)

Betts quoted Representative John Blust, who said “It seems to me that filing a false certification with the House clerk has to be an ethics violation of some sort and perhaps a new complainant - maybe one of the Union County residents affected by the Gibson bill will file a new complaint with just the House Ethics Committee. I feel this must be dealt with if the House is to have any credibility.” . . . The Gibson matter is a clear-cut example of why the State Ethics Commission should have jurisdiction over complaints against legislators, at least through the stage of recommending a punishment, and why the process should be totally open. The entire reform community has been unanimous, I believe, in backing these changes.”

Betts closed by saying, “I think he's right about this. While legislators may have been motivated by a concern that there would be bogus ethics complaints filed and there's no reason to make those public, the risk is that the legislature will be seen as ignoring complaints with merit to them, or worse, covering up for cronies. There's a lot to be said for allowing the public to see what's going on, and to make up their own minds.”

Best of all, a comment posted in response to Betts and Blust shows at least some people got the point I’ve been trying to make it my comments about Thomas Wright: “I don't think the Republicans want Wright treated as Gibson was. They want Gibson treated as Wright was.” Precisely! The point is not to ignore wrongdoing, but to hold everyone to the same high standard that the public has a right to expect.

Wright diversion

Since this column will be in print before the Thursday hearing, my comments on the hearing itself will have to keep ‘til next week. But I can already see the press focusing on Wright to the exclusion of other stories that deserve attention.

I just received copies of three complaints and a press release stating “House Speaker Joe Hackney, House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, and the Chairman of the (so-called) Ethics Committee, Rick Glazier are apparently all in violation of the law.” I was told the complaints were filed yesterday with the State Board of Elections by Raymond Spencer, a Marine Corps veteran, and sent, along with the press release, to the major media outlets in the state. Strangely, I haven’t seen or heard anything about them or even found any mention of them on the Internet, and I wonder when they will be reported.

Spencer said “It is essential and fair that all three recuse themselves from any participation in the upcoming special session called for by the Governor at the request of these three Representatives. It is particularly outrageous that the ethics committee chairman, Rick Glazier himself omitted over $40,000 given to his campaign just before a highly contested election and he of all people was selected as chairman by Speaker Hackney. Hugh Holliman has been marshalling votes to expel Tom Wright knowing full well that Holliman’s own campaign reports reveal a corporate donation of $1,000 which is a misdemeanor.”

In addition to receiving the documents about some of Wright’s accusers, I received a lengthy document reporting an even more offensive matter. The past actions of Wright’s accusers either did or did not happen, but there is an action planned for the very time of Wright’s hearing that is of such significance to some that the hearing could actually be seen as a smoke screen.

The document was sent out by Joel Raupe, who works with the House Republican caucus, and begins as follows: “Thursday, March 20 – at the very hour the North Carolina House gathers to debate the "qualifications" of Thomas Wright, the N.C. Rules Review Commission will hold a meeting where the commissioners may feel required to approve new rules passed by the Public Health Commission, making "Comprehensive Sexual Education" the expected standard for one small program and putting into precedent language that couldn't make it through the legislature. The trouble is no one knows what "Comprehensive Sexual Education" means.”

The full text of the document is available at http://joelraupe.com/RRC20080320PHC.aspx

The subject is complex, but there are three key points that need to be made:

The timing of the Rules Review meeting, along with the subject, shows how the big money players, who see the will of the people as irrelevant to their money making schemes, ignore the legislature or use it to hide their real agenda.

There’s big money in abortions, and abstinence is bad for the abortion business.

As I said about Jim Black, “The press has hyperventilated about a handful of improperly handled campaign contributions to the point of boredom. Why? Why the focus on . . . minor misdeeds to the exclusion of much bigger scandals?

Well, there you have the answer. The purpose is to divert attention from the bigger scandals.”
The Rules Review hearing is part of a mighty big scandal. More later.

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