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A strange week in Raleigh

RALEIGH — It was a strange week at the North Carolina General Assembly.
The House didn’t meet, except for perfunctory sessions. Independence Day approached. The Senate, hoping everyone was headed to beach and not looking, sprung something called the “Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act.”
Then, a day early, the fireworks began.
Most of the freedom in the Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act dealt with being free to stymie the ability of abortion clinics to remain open.
The Senate rolled the bill out during a late afternoon committee meeting, and gave it initial approval that same night. The next day, about 600 abortion rights supporters showed up to let their displeasure be known.
As the Senate debated the bill, about half the crowd — mostly dressed in pink — packed the gallery.
Some murmurs and clapping and gesturing had Lt. Gov. Dan Forest threatening to kick them out on a couple of occasions.
Down below, lots of moral indignation spewed from both sides.
There was talk of government invasion of women’s bodies and old men imposing their will on the relationship between a woman and her doctor. There was talk of administering death and the immorality of referring to abortion as health care.
Not so surprisingly, the pink shirts above didn’t change the outcome.
The two sides were well-entrenched. The bill passed.
The protesters left the building chanting, “Shame, shame, shame.”

And I spent the rest of the day scratching my head, wondering what I had just witnessed.
I understand the divisiveness and emotion of abortion policy, no matter on whose side it falls.
The politics was befuddling, though.
It is important to remember that three other abortion-related measures have passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly in the last two years. Every one of them is in legal limbo, tied up in the courts.
This one, if it were to get through the House and by Gov. Pat McCrory, would likely suffer the same fate.
It is also important to remember that McCrory, while running for office, said he had no plans to sign any abortion-related measures into law. He obviously understands that abortion politics cannot be won by statewide candidates in North Carolina.

Best to stay away from it. It is political kryptonite.
The Senate, though, has tossed both he and the GOP’s presumptive U.S. Senate nominee (at least for the time being), House Speaker Thom Tillis, a big ol’ chunk of that glowing, radioactive green stuff.
A significant portion of Tillis’ fellow House Republicans, with their kryptonite immunity created by safe Republican districts, will want to pick up that rock. After all, the same stuff that kills statewide candidates can inoculate them in a GOP primary.
Doing so, they will be dealing a blow to their leader, with his designs on moderate, swing voters in 2014.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Republican state senators don’t want a second GOP U.S. senator in 2015 and don’t want a two-term Republican governor in 2017.

Scott Mooneyham writes about state government for Capitol Press Association.

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