State Sen. Trudy Wade is expected this week to finagle into passage a piece of legislation intended to settle a score.

Wade, who failed to pass a statewide bill that would allow local governments to remove legal advertising and public notices in newspapers and place them on government websites — in Guilford County only.

This will hurt the bottom lines of local papers, including the News & Record, and could put the Jamestown News out of business.

Wade says her goal is to save money for the county, which is not a guarantee. Nor would such a move serve the public interest because newspapers and their websites reach broader audiences than the county website.

But that’s not the point. But some of her colleagues have said that this surgical in Wade’s home county is in reality payback to the News & Record for news coverage and editorials Wade has not liked. If follows a similar pattern of the Greensboro Republican maneuvering to have her way by any means necessary. If at first she doesn’t succeed, she keeps trying, using her close ties to the powerful Senate leader, Phil Berger of Eden, strong-arm tactics and arcane legislative loopholes to get what she wants.

But this isn’t just about Wade. It is about a legislature that meddles, time and again, in the affairs of local communities. Sometimes the motives are political. Sometimes they are purely personal. They include:

Asheville. In 2013 the General Assembly stripped the city of its water system by passing a law that was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2016.

Charlotte. Also in 2013, the General Assembly removed control of Douglas International Airport from the city of Charlotte to a commission created by legislators. That law, too, was voided by the courts.

Greensboro. In 2015, at Wade’s behest, state lawmakers redrew Greensboro City Council districts and changed the makeup of the council without input from local voters. A federal judge blocked the law with a permanent injunction.

Charlotte. In the dark of night, the General Assembly passed HB 2, the state’s notorious bathroom law, in response to a Charlotte gay rights ordinance. After a blistering wave of protest from citizens and businesses, the legislature partially repealed the law.

Northeastern North Carolina. GOP leaders (specifically Berger and Sen. Harry Brown, the budget chairman) opposed a $400 million Amazon wind farm in cash-strapped rural communities, claiming that the project affected U.S. Navy operations, even though the Navy insisted it did not. After they failed to block the project, lawmakers still managed to pass an 18-month moratorium on wind projects.

Wake County. In 2013 Republican state Sen. Chad Barefoot redrew Wake school board districts, which a judge later declared to be unconstitutional.

Fracking. Republican lawmakers passed a bill that forbids local governments from setting their own regulations for hydraulic fracturing. Or fracking. Then they passed a law in 2014 allowing fracking permits in the state before environmental safety rules for the process were put into place.

Guilford County. In 2013 Wade sponsored a bill that applied only to Guilford County to make Board of Education elections partisan with no public referendum. The law stands.

And so on… Most of this skullduggery is done quietly, and avoids public input and (God forbid) public votes.

This is not government. It is gamesmanship emboldened by representatives who have drawn themselves into safe districts to avoid accountability. Absolute power and control of every nook and cranny of North Carolina by the party of small government.

Wade may be the leading lady, but this is an ensemble production.

The Republican-controlled legislature has become a playground for the powerful — a place to bully and intimidate and carry out vendettas. Because they can.

— from the News & Record of Greensboro.


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