Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The Battle Continues
After the last several years of controversy regarding forced annexation and another "study" of the issue by the legislature, the official Legislative Study Commission produced an annexation reform bill that was horrible. House Bill 524 was truly a case where the "cure" was worse than the disease itself. Far too many legislators got behind this horrible bill (H524) and pushed it hard in spite of the fact that a MUCH better piece of legislation (S494/H645) that reflected the requests from the citizens was available to them.
The differences between S494 and H524 and how these bills evolved speaks volumes about a serious problem that the people are confronted with in the State Legislature; specifically;’ Who do the majority of Legislators feel they owe their loyalty to?’ Is it the people of this State or is it the special interests that have honed their "pay to play" skills over the decades?
Senate Bill 494 came about because one legislator, Senator Larry Shaw, (Dem, now retired), reached out to a grassroots organization, StopNCAnnexation, (formed nearly eight years ago to bring the voice of the people across the State together in the single goal of being heard in Raleigh), and asked for assistance in creating legislation that would truly address what the people have been trying for decades to have changed in the fifty year old version of annexation law. That often repeated request is for a restoration of the rights and voice of the people being affected by a local government body that they did not elect.
S494 was the result of that request for assistance in changes to the law.
In contrast, H524 was created within a process that the legislature has used whenever they have a controversial issue that the people pressure them to address, a process which they have used to "handle" the forced annexation outcry several times in the past. The Legislative Leadership forms a committee to "study" the issue. By now, and at least three studies later, the results are predictable; the same arguments and requests are presented by both sides of the controversy and the entrenched special interests (the NC League of Municipalities) exerts its backroom influence. Very little of what the people have asked for over and over survives the study to become part of the resulting legislation that is voted on. The people are left with the appearance of action while their voice and wishes are ignored.
The discussion in the Legislature about forced annexation is shut down for years to come.
Yet our Legislators declared H524 a "compromise" victory. How could it be a compromise or a victory for the people when everything the people asked for once again was discarded and everything that the NCLM suggested was adopted? The only thing that qualifies H524 as a compromise was that it was clearly produced by a compromise of principle and representative government. The inclusion of an unwinnable sham of a referendum in H524 may have been unprecedented, but does not qualify the bill as acceptable to the people or to the principles of good representative government.
After all your trips to Raleigh to attend the Study Commission meetings and legislative sessions, all the letters, emails and phone calls to the legislators, with no resulting legislation being passed into law last session, you might be feeling like the people have once again failed in the effort to change the annexation laws, but that is not the case.
The people scored a major victory in this battle, although not the final victory of having the voice of the people restored. With the decades of cultivated influence and army of lobbyists wielded by the NCLM and affiliates, it was a victory for the people that H524 did NOT become law! The discussion on changing the annexation laws has not been shut down by bad legislation and if the people have the will to continue it, we have a good chance to finally prevail. Defeating the passage of H524 was a win for the people!
Going forward, there is so much opportunity now in place to make real change happen and I hope that you recognize it.
We have an upcoming election that can have a major impact on changing the annexation laws and it is up to each of us to continue to increase the pressure on those running for State office to take a stand on this issue. All the calls, letters and emails from everyone in the effort to restore the voice of the people have had an effect on election campaigns across NC. Candidates are declaring their position against forced annexation from the coast to the mountains, but more need to take a stand. Only you can make that happen with the candidates running to represent you. Don't let this opportunity pass.
The NCLM has had decades to groom former city officials to become "friendly" legislators to their ongoing agenda of increasing the power and subsidies to city governments. It's time to 'clean house' in the General Assembly and County Commissions and remove as many of those officials who feel that the wishes of the city lobbyists are more important than the voices of the people of this State they were elected to represent.
Ask those running to take a stand against forced annexation. Don't let them wiggle out of taking a real stand by saying they "support reform" of the annexation laws. Even the Director of the NCLM has said he "supports reform" of the laws. Pin your candidate down to take a stand against forced annexation and committing to put an end to the practice once and for all.
Once the people of NC have replaced the “Lackey's of the League” with those who will commit to representing their constituents faithfully in the State Legislature, the people should look forward to going back to the General Assembly with our request for legislation that will end forced annexation once and for all next year.