Another Black eye for the Honorables

By: - August 22, 2005 5:21 am

Wilmington StarNews Online

The optometrist who runs the N.C. House has decreed that, er, pupils entering public schools have to get eye exams.

Speaker Jim Black – or, as he prefers, Doctor Black – presumably will collect a few more fees as a result. Of course, he never thought of that. He was just thinking about the little churren.

The doctor didn’t bring up this humanitarian innovation early in the session and force his busy colleagues to debate its merits. He just quietly dropped it into the budget at the last minute, knowing that most loyal Democrats would vote for the whole thing, whether or not they knew what might be lurking in its 364 pages. There was no time to read them in any case, and anybody who tried probably got eyestrain.

But it wasn’t only the little churren and fellow legislators who benefited from the tender solicitude of the good doctor. He also changed insurance requirements in a way that presumably will send more customers to chiropractors.

The $145,000 in “campaign contributions” he’s gotten from chiropractors over the years didn’t influence him in any way, Doctor Black later pointed out. He was just looking out for folks with backaches.

In most states, Doctor Black would not have been allowed to undertake such surreptitious acts of charity. Those states don’t allow legislators to insert “special provisions” into the bowels of budgets. Instead, they are forced to put them out in the open for everybody to see, study, debate and vote on individually.

Critics say North Carolina’s approach invites unwise laws, not to mention corruption. For good-government fetishists, that’s the bottom line. But Doctor Black can’t see it.

Maybe he needs new lenses.

Or maybe North Carolina needs a new speaker of the House.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066