The Republican leaders in North Carolina are currently engaged in a power struggle over taxes and budget with one conservative leader resigning from a powerful leadership position while calling out corruption.
In North Carolina, the first time since the Reconstruction era, the Republican Party has super majority in both the House and the Senate of the General Assembly and there is a new Republican governor eager to prove himself on the national stage. It seems that the Republican Party of NC had seen this political situation as an historic opportunity to create a model of conservative reform for the nation.
Now, there is a bump in that aspiration and story. The House Republicans, Senate Republicans, uncompromising conservatives among Senate Republicans, and Republican Governor Pat McCrory are in fight over the budget and how to rewrite state tax laws.
At the center of the fight is Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) who recently resigned as Co-Chair of the Senate Fiance Committee in protest. Sen. Rucho labored for over nine months to find a way to overhaul the current tax system so that it's in line with the conservative philosophy.
That philosophy is that taxes should be "low, simple and equal" according to Sen. Rucho. And, the best way to achieve this is through eliminating the income tax and taxing consumption including services, and closing all loopholes. As Rucho puts it this way, "Everyone should be treated the same. No one gets special treatment."
Rucho contends that every one of the Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee actually believes that this kind of massive overhaul of the tax system is needed and that the reason why that this is out of reach right now is entirely due to the influence of paid lobbyists representing powerful industries such as realtors and hospitals, i.e., corruption.
When Senate leader Phil Berger introduced his own compromise tax plan on June 11th taking Rucho's plan off the table, Rucho resigned in a letter a few days later.
The Raleigh State Capitol police expelled the media from the capitol dome on Wed. June 26, prior to arresting 3 men who refused to leave, and after Gov. Pat McCrory chose not to meet with a group of 50 North Carolina residents asking him to veto a slate of bills they see as mean-spirited and extreme.
Those arrested were Hudson Vaughan, Joshua Vincent, and Rob Stephens (field director for the NC NAACP). Story of America film directors Annabel Park and Eric Byler were shut out of the building, along with 2 local news crews, 2 citizen journalists, a print journalist, NAACP's staff videographer.
About an hour later, with the 3 men still inside, Chief Glen B. Allen, the state capitol police chief, came out to speak to NAACP attorney Jamie Phillips. Members of the press, and about 20 of the protesters, had been waiting outside the capitol's north entrance after seeing a police officer park a car there, presumably to transport the detainees.
Chief Allen said he was trying to convince the men to leave on their own volition. He said that he would allow Phillips to come into the building to observe if it became necessary to arrest the men. He also said that he would allow the media to observe.
However, after the arrests were made and the men were handcuffed, they were hurried to the south entrance of the capitol building in order to avoid the media. It seems clear to me that the decision to "un-arrest" the men and issue them citations instead was part of an effort to avoid media exposure. But Chief Allen told Phillips that it was for public safety reasons.
4 KEY MOMENTS
6:21 - Chief Allen says, "If the media is interested in staying, we'll let you know when we're about to do it. We'll bring them out, probably."
6:59 - The door to the state capitol opens and a head peeks out.
7:08 - Forward Together movement organizer Laurel Ashton receives a phone call alerting her that the 3 detainees are being ushered to the opposite side of the building.
7:25 - Rob Stephens explains it was the sight of the media waiting outside that caused them capitol police to remove their handcuffs and "un-arrest" them, issuing citations instead. This corroborates what our camera captured at 6:59, when the door opened and a head peeked out at the north entrance. Moments later, the detainees were released using the south entrance.
In North Carolina, there is a fierce debate taking place among Republican lawmakers over how to change the tax code in the state. Because the Republican Party has super majority in both houses and the governor's house, the tug of war is really between a proposal that is a more radically conservative, led by Sen. Bob Rucho, and more moderate proposal, led by House Speaker Thom Tillis.