A Difference of Perspective
By some estimates, North Carolina’s refusal to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion results in about 2,800 unnecessary deaths each year. When a Democratic legislator confronted a Republican colleague with the fact that about 50 people in his district would die this year, the Republican responded “That’s a difference of policy perspective.”
I have recently outlined my thoughts and efforts to find common ground across party lines, but there are limits to those efforts. There are issues before us in the General Assembly that show fundamental differences between parties. As much as I want to develop common understanding across difference, sometimes it is impossible.
How is it that we can see things so differently? To me, those preventable deaths are a travesty that we have an obligation to address. To me, it’s fiscally irresponsible that North Carolinian’s tax dollars are being spent to expand Medicaid in other states. To me, it makes no sense to refuse funding that would give nearly 500,000 North Carolinians health insurance and create 29,000 jobs this year alone. We can argue about the best way to implement universal health care, but it is beyond “a difference of policy perspective” to let people die, remain uninsured, or remain unemployed.
Another recent example is a newly introduced attempt to allow selective enforcement of the law based on religious beliefs. The first large debate of this legislative session will likely be whether or not we will allow magistrates and registers of deeds to choose not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
We all know that there is still ample opposition to same-sex marriage in North Carolina. But this law makes me wonder if there is a shared commitment to the fundamental constitutional provision of equal protection under the law? Do we not expect our governmental officials to fulfill their duties for all people under their jurisdiction?
It seems to me that this legislation is not a “difference of policy perspective”, it’s fundamentally unconstitutional. Every elected official takes an oath to uphold the North Carolina and U.S. Constitutions. The Republicans pushing this bill are both acting with discriminatory intent and intentionally shirking their oath of office.
Of course, this is not new for the Republicans leading the legislature. At least fourteen Republican laws from the last three years have been challenged in court on constitutional grounds. In 2014, the General Assembly passed a school prayer bill that includes language which has already been ruled unconstitutional by two circuit courts in other parts of the country.
I cannot understand passing a law that you know will be overthrown in the courts. This kind of legislation is signing the state up for costly litigation, taking money from taxpayers for a guaranteed loss. We are wasting time and money when there are so many important issues that need to be addressed.
I am eager to work across the aisle to find pragmatic solutions to pressing issues. When Republicans throw pragmatism out the window in favor of ideology, any attempt to find common ground breaks down. In cases like these, I am just as eager to work in opposition. I believe North Carolinians deserve the fight.
Graig Meyer is the State Representative for House District 50, covering portions of Orange and Durham Counties. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared as part of Graig’s column with the News of Orange County.