The revolving door between lawmakers and lobbyists is nothing new, but what’s with the rash of Republicans claiming to resign to spend time with their families, only to end up back in Raleigh a few months later?
Former Majority Leader Mike Hager resigned in August, announcing “after much prayer and consideration, it is time to spend more time with my family and pursue other opportunities.” So much for returning home to his family in Rutherford County. Weeks after the required six-month cooling off period, Hager cashed in, registering with the state and starting a lobbying firm focused on deregulation and public utility issues.
In 2014, Senator Thom Goolsby of New Hanover County chose not to seek a third term. At the time he said, “I’m just ready to come home. It’s been a long four years.” However, Goolsby could not wait to get back to Raleigh, and according to the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website, registered as a lobbyist in March of 2015. Some of Goolsby’s clients have included the Education Freedom Alliance, NC Small Business Coalition, NC Clean Energy Business Alliance, and the NC Friends of Midwives.
Republicans who came into power saying they would change the culture in Raleigh, have turned the lobbying revolving door into an art form. By resigning early a lawmaker can start the clock on the six-month cooling off period sooner rather than later. Cashing in has proven to be the culture at the General Assembly under Republican leadership.
At least former Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca was honest. When he resigned in mid-2016 he admitted he was considering becoming a lobbyist. "I've got a lot of options, and government relations is one of those options,” he told WRAL. Apodaca registered as a lobbyist in January of 2017 and started a new firm. His new clients included Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Altria, and the NC Wine and Beer Wholesalers Association.
Following the election of Judge Mike Morgan to the North Carolina Supreme Court by an overwhelming margin on Nov. 8 2016, the balance of the court shifted from a 4-3 Republican majority to a 4-3 Democratic majority. Media began reporting days after the election that Republican leaders were rumored to be considering a scheme to add two Justices to the NC Supreme Court, during a “special session” called ostensibly to discuss recovery efforts from the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew. Gov. McCrory would appoint two new justices before leaving office to fill the new seats until the next election of the General Assembly.Gov. McCrory has said he will call an extra session on Dec. 13th to discuss recovery efforts, but legislators can, by simple majority vote, suspend the rules and take up any matter they wish.
Republican leaders have repeatedly refused to denounce or deny rumors that they will use the special session to add Supreme Court Justices, saying it has not been “formally” discussed and they won’t comment on “rumors.” While legislative leaders deny a Supreme Court packing scheme is under consideration, Senate Leadership put forward a similar proposal in 2013.
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