Opinion: Carolina Journal Opinions

Don’t Forget Council of State Races

The 2012 campaign season is officially under way. In addition to electing a president, members of the congressional delegation, a governor, and a legislature, we also will elect the Council of State. Who are those guys and what do they do?

The nine-member North Carolina Council of State is established in the state constitution. Members are elected statewide every four years and serve as advisers to the governor.

They meet once a month and are subject to open meetings laws. Their duties are prescribed by statute and include approving all state land transactions, investigating public works companies, and advising the governor on administrative matters. Each member of the council is paid $123,198 annually. They also serve as heads of government departments and have specific duties in those roles.

• The lieutenant governor is the only member who serves in both legislative and executive capacities. He presides over the state Senate and does not vote except to break a tie. (Then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue cast the deciding vote to enact the lottery in 2005). If the governor has to step aside for any reason, the lieutenant governor becomes governor until the next election. He also serves on the State Board of Education, the Capital Planning Commission, and the Board of Community Colleges.

• The secretary of state is the gatekeeper of business-related operations. He administers new companies and maintains corporate documents and filings. Regulation of investment advising, stocks and bond sales, and broker registration resides with the secretary of state. He oversees lobbyist registration and registers trademarks, records financial loan and lien documents, and keeps tabs on charitable solicitation. The secretary also is custodian of the original 1868 N.C. Constitution and the Book of Oaths.

• The state auditor is charged with providing independent, unbiased, and professional assessments of the accounting of public resources. Although there is a set schedule for audits, anonymous tips can initiate audits as well. Audits are done on educational institutions, state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions. The auditor also has authority to audit nonprofit organizations that receive state money. All completed audits are public records.

• The state treasurer serves as the state’s banker and chief investment officer, and is responsible for more than $74 billion in assets. He manages the state pension funds and administers the $4 billion 401(k)/457 plans for public employees. The treasurer also oversees state and local debt and works with bond rating agencies. The treasurer administers the State Disability Program, chairs the N.C. Banking Commission, and sits on State Board of Education.

• The superintendent of public instruction implements public school laws and policy set out by the State Board of Education for preschool through 12th grade students. He administers $9 billion a year in public school spending from state and federal funds, and oversees nearly 130 instructional and supervisory personnel. The superintendent oversees curriculum, instruction, and testing as well as school business support and operations.

• The attorney general heads the state’s Department of Justice. He provides legal representation and advice to all state agencies, including the General Assembly and the governor. He directs the State Bureau of Investigation and offers services for consumer protection and victims of crime, and is responsible for law enforcement training and standards.

• The commissioner of agriculture regulates and provides services to North Carolina’s farm industry and agribusiness. He offers services such as help in natural emergencies, food and drug safety, meat and poultry inspection, pest control, and veterinary regulations. The commissioner oversees services and programs for small farms, food distribution, soil and water conservation, and the forestry industry. He operates and manages the State Fair, the Mountain State Fair, and five state farmers’ markets.

• The commissioner of labor oversees rules and regulations regarding safety in the workplace. He enforces state occupational health and safety regulations and compiles and maintains records on worker safety issues. He also inspects elevators and amusement devices.

• The commissioner of insurance regulates the insurance industry in North Carolina, issuing licenses for industry professionals, providing insurance education, and handling consumer complaints. He oversees the office of the state fire marshal and administers the Worker’s Compensation Act, Tort Claim Act, and the Childhood Vaccine-Related Injury Act.

That’s a lot of responsibility overseeing a lot of government with a lot of taxpayer money. Let’s work to get good leaders in charge.

Becki Gray is vice president for outreach at the John Locke Foundation.