By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

Sen. Edwards Assails Gov. Cooper At TCGOP Convention –Brevard NC

 

March 16, 2017

N.C. Sen. Chuck Edwards addresses the Transylvania County Republican Party convention Saturday at the library's Rogow Room. (Times photo by Derek McKissock)

N.C. Chuck Edwards called Gov. Roy Cooper "unwilling and uncooperative" to work with Republican lawmakers among comments made Saturday at the Transylvania County Republican Party's annual convention.

Edwards, who represents District 48, which includes Transylvania County, was the keynote speaker at the convention held at the library's Rogow Room.

Fiscally, the state is now in good shape, Edwards said. In 2010, the state was "essentially bankrupt," he said, and Republicans took over leadership of the General Assembly for the first time in roughly 100 years and did what they had to, "to keep the lights on."

The fiscal year that just ended, Edwards said, included a $552 million "surplus."

"We have a triple AAA bond rating, one of only nine states in the country," he said.

Edwards suggested there was room for improvement but Cooper's election would put the state's financial position "at risk."

Edwards said he was "alarmed" that Cooper has submitted a budget that adds $1 billion to state spending over the past year's amount.

With majorities in the State and House, however, Edwards believes they will be able to "work something out that's far less."

Edwards said one of Cooper's main goals is to break the veto-proof majority in the House.

Edwards warned Republicans they shouldn't get "caught up" in a single issue that can divide Republicans.

Edwards referenced a story showing Cooper as "unwilling and uncooperative" toward the Republican-led legislature.

He said that during a meeting with five senior senators, a member of Cooper's staff told them they didn't "think there is much we can work on together."

"To me that set the tone for the next two years," Edwards said, and will make it more difficult to "move the state forward."

Edwards was also critical of Cooper's attempt to expand Medicaid in the state, which Edwards said the governor doesn't have the legal authority.

The matter is currently in the courts.

Edwards went on to talk about the special session held by the General Assembly in December, when Republicans, among other things, made Cooper's Cabinet picks subject to approval by the state Senate and divided election boards evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Currently, the majority on county election boards favor whatever party the governor represents.

Edwards said that some "described it as a power grab," noting he received about 30,000 "hate emails."

Edwards said his reply to the emails was that those who voted him onto the District 48 seat supported him and he would use the state Constitution to support the platform he ran on during the election.

As well as changing the county make-up of county election boards, Republicans want to merge the State Board of Elections with the State Ethics Commission.

The new quasi-judicial regulatory agency would be run by an executive director and overseen by an eight-member board, including four Democrats and four Republicans.

Cooper challenged the move in the courts and the issue is on hold. Edwards said Republicans expect to see a favorable outcome in the courts.

Cooper also filed a lawsuit challenging the Senate's right to approve his Cabinet picks. Edwards said the Senate's authority is laid out in the state Constitution and Republicans again believe they will win out.

Edwards was also critical of Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein's attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court end its review of the state's voter ID law.

Edwards said their move was "not an above board way of doing business."

Edwards said Republicans are also confident of receiving a favorable outcome over the redistricting lawsuit.

Edwards shared an anecdote that he believes suggests the voter ID requirement is needed.

He send out 3,200 letters to newly registered voters and 350 of them came back undeliverable

"It's clear evidence that not everything is accurate and not everything is above board," Edwards said.

He said the status of House Bill (HB) 2, or the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, remains unclear.

Edwards was critical of Cooper's response to it.

He said Cooper instructed every Senate Democrat to vote against the repeal effort made during the December special session

"You've got to wonder what is the motivation in that," Edwards said, while also being critical of the governor not supporting the recent bill by state Rep. Chuck McGrady to repeal HB 2.

Cooper wanted to remove a provision that would allow referenda on local nondiscrimination ordinances, while Republicans say they can't support the bill without it.

"That showed me that there is really not a sincere willingness to work with the legislature, to move N.C. forward," Edwards said of Cooper's opposition to McGrady's bill.

Other Bills

Edwards pointed to several measures he supports, including the 2010 law that sets aside money in each state budget in a rainy-day fund. There is currently about $1.5 billion in the fund.

Edwards said legislation is in the works to protect the fund, requiring that two-thirds of lawmakers must agree to take money from it.

Another bill, he supports, would mean judges who are impeached while in office and convicted would lose their retirement benefits.

Edwards said he is "proud" of the bill he introduced that would call for a constitutional amendment to lower the cap on income tax from 10 percent to 5.5 percent.

Not all Republicans, he said, support the measure, while all Democrats are against it.

Edwards said the bill would force government to be "prudent on spending."

The income tax should be the "last thing" lawmakers use to get the state out of a financial mess. It would also take a year before those funds can be used.

The more "responsible" thing to do, Edwards said, was to use the sales tax because that would have an "instant" impact.

Other bills, Edwards touted, include one to study the unfunded retiree health fund, another that penalizes cities that claim to be sanctuary cities and refuse to obey immigration laws, and a bill that would require each county to maintain a database of those who won't attend jury duty because they claim they are not legally able to do so.

Another bill Edwards just introduced would make, if approved, all municipal elections to be held on even years.

It would attract a more broader voter base, Edwards said.

The UNC School of Government supports the bill, saying it would increase turnout by 20 percent or more, he said. The bill will be a "heavy lift," he said, with efforts already underway to oppose it.

Edwards said he also plans to introduce a bill that would have Asheville drawn up into election districts.

He said people in South Ashville support the effort.

The evidence is "clear," Edwards said, that the city should be broken into districts

"They (Democrats) have a lock-up on power," Edwards said "It needs to be diversified."

The Ashville City Council currently has six Democrats and one unaffiliated member.

School Funding

Transylvania County Commission Chairman Larry Chapman asked Edwards about school capital spending and funding, and the lottery funds.

Edwards said there is a great amount of interest from rural counties to look at the current school funding formula.

A recent report found the school funding formula is complicated and rural counties compared to urban ones are at a disadvantage, he said.

Legislation has been introduced to put the school funding formula "front and center" but it wont' be "quick and easy," Edwards said.

The lottery funds are also being looked at, he said.

"(I'm) amazed at how little of the lottery funds come back to the counties, as little as 17 percent of the total lottery funds," he said.

 
 

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