The creeping remorse of the Right

By: - August 2, 2011 1:40 pm

Some Republicans in the General Assembly are beginning to agree with at least one criticism of their party’s performance in the recent legislative session, that they steamrolled ahead with extreme, ideological legislation with little regard for suggestions on how to improve it and no patience for calls to compromise.

Republican Senator Jim Davis told a television reporter recently that the recently passed “Right to Know Act,” could have been “a little less onerous maybe.”

The legislation imposes a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking abortion services and forces them to hear anti-abortion propaganda and view a screen showing an ultrasound image.

It is one of the most radical anti-choice laws in the country and includes no exemptions for victims of rape or incest that states like Texas made part of their law.

Davis says some exceptions probably should have been included. Even the bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Ruth Samuelson, says a provision requiring a woman that chooses to avert their eyes form the ultrasound to sign a statement saying she chose not to look could have been taken out of the bill, but it didn’t occur to the committee.

The fact that victims of rape or incest were not exempted from the bill certainly occurred to lots of people. Opponents of the legislation raised that point at every stage of the debate about the proposal.

The absurd signature requirement came up too, but the Republicans were in no mood to hear any objections and plowed ahead with the most extreme bill they could design.

And the second thoughts are not just coming on issues like abortion.

Republicans inside and outside the General Assembly are now questioning individual budget choices too, like the decision to end the nationally recognized N.C. Teaching Fellows Program that provides college scholarships for students who agree to spend at least four years as a teacher.

Republican Rep. Hugh Blackwell told the News & Observer that the decision to end the program might be revisited in May. That’s a sharp contrast to the position of the right-wing Pope Civitas Institute that has close ties to legislative leaders, particularly in the House.

The Civitasers, who see a left-wing conspiracy behind every tree, couldn’t be happier with the demise of the Teaching Fellows because it was managed by the Public School Forum of North Carolina, a nonprofit group that Civitas leaders say is a “recruitment area” for the North Carolina Association of Educators.

The Forum’s board includes Lew Ebert, the Chair of the N.C. Chamber, former Republican House member Gene Arnold, Republican Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan, and Erskine Bowles, as well as executives from the financial, software and pharmaceutical industries.

It is not exactly the typical lineup at a left-wing pro-union group, but that’s what the leaders of hard-right Civitas Institute think and this session the General Assembly toed that far-right ideological line and abolished the program, just like they refused to listen to the pleas to make the Right to Know Act less extreme.

House Speaker Thom Tillis bristled when he was asked at the end of the session about what appeared to be to a far-right agenda pursued by Republicans this session. Tillis responded with the absurd suggestion that the session seemed far right because the state had been run by the far left for so long.

This week, rank and file Republicans countered that view by admitting they went too far.

And they did.


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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