RALEIGH – While a lot of government has been working double-time in reaction to the Wuhan Virus outbreak in the United States, with Governor Roy Cooper holding daily press conferences to issue shutdown commands and prepare us for even worse restrictions, the state legislature has been out of session and out of focus for these last few weeks. Yet, when the legislature returns for its spring legislative session, there are going to be a lot of expectations of lawmakers from still reeling North Carolinians and very interested interest groups.
Anticipating this, N.C. Sens. Phil Berger and Dan Blue, the Republican and Democratic leader respectively, issued a joint statement to outline how they will be seeking input for the upcoming session. In the statement, they said they want to help, but in the best way possible. That requires soliciting a lot of good advice.
From the Berger and Blue statement:
“Earlier this week the two of us had a lengthy discussion about how to best address the COVID-19 crisis in North Carolina. We agreed that the best route was to survey the state for needs and come to a consensus with Governor Cooper and the House for how to help all North Carolinians.
“In order to accomplish that we will ask senators with interest or issue-area expertise in COVID-19 to reach out to their community to compile specific ideas for how we can respond. We will continue to lean on every member of the Senate during this time to do outreach.
“Those conversations are providing insight into how the state can and will move forward from this crisis. With those ideas in mind, the issue-area leaders will come together, compare notes and report back to leadership.
“Later this week we will hold a joint leadership call to provide updates on our efforts and discuss next steps.
“In this time of fear and uncertainty, our members have stepped up to the challenge and are taking those ideas and putting them to paper. For now, we are stronger apart than we are together. In the coming days and weeks, proposals from Murphy to Manteo will find their way to Raleigh.
“Senators and staff are well-equipped to take those suggestions and create a relief package that will be considered promptly when the General Assembly returns. We are in unprecedented times, but North Carolina can weather this new threat and we’re optimistic that we can do so in a meaningful way.”
North Carolina state government is not like the federal government; there is no printing press, no unlimited sovereign credit card, and a balanced budget requirement that cannot simply be waived.
So when these state lawmakers talk about ‘relief packages,’ it is important to understand just what that may mean for state taxpayers so constituents can provide their state senators with meaningful input to shape whatever legislation comes out of these efforts.
Healthcare providers and workers are scrambling in anticipation of an overwhelming surge in patients, limited themselves by resources and manpower; Businesses have been shuttered across the state, on government orders; people have been laid off at an unprecedented rate, because of forced closures; and people are genuinely fearful of the virus spreading, and of loved ones getting sick.
The pain is widespread, with much of it having as much or more to do with extreme media focus and drastic government reactions to this viral threat, than the viral threat itself. Rights have been arguably violated, property and businesses destroyed by government decree. Any ‘relief packages’ should be as mindful as they can possibly be of this fact.
Members of congress are polishing off a $2 trillion rescue package that sends checks to every American (below a certain income level, because socialism) and bails out a bevy of big corporations and small-businesses alike, but the N.C. General Assembly does not have the ability to provide that kind of relief.
What would be the most meaningful ways the state legislature could help address this unexpected crisis amplified by government action? What will help us back on our feet fastest, while honoring our first principles the most completely?
Let your senators know what those ideas are, while keeping in mind that, on Jones Street, money spent is more real than that in D.C. It’s going to come from somewhere, and not future generations taxable income or central banking magic tricks.
Each one of us owes it to the rest to be individually responsible, but also to be honest about how not all proposed policies are created equal in terms of efficacy and ethics.
Esse Quam Videri, ‘To be, rather than to seem,’ is own state motto. We need to honor that more now, than ever.