We all remember Gov. Roy Cooper’s 888-day state of emergency during the height of COVID. It allowed him to decide which businesses could open and when. It allowed him to decide if schools could be open and under what conditions. In short, it gave him a level of power that no single leader often enjoys in a free society.

Well, it seems some members of North Carolina’s left-wing media are pining for the return of those days. This week, WRAL published a piece — which starts by saying, “The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company” — that calls for Cooper to declare another emergency (and then to just implement all their policy preferences by fiat).

The editors say, “The North Carolina legislature isn’t doing its job,” citing the long budget process and generally making “a mess of the state.”

As evidence of the latter claim, they say, “There aren’t bus drivers to take kids to school… Public services and facilities – from prisons to parks – lack adequate staffing to serve the public while assuring security, safety and necessary maintenance. Students are crowded into schools and classrooms that lack full-time and certified teachers not to mention shortages of nurses and counselors.”

They’re correct that many positions are going unfilled, and some, like corrections officers, deserve a significant pay bump, but this isn’t just the case with government roles. There is a dire labor shortage across most sectors of the economy. These government positions are largely funded; there just aren’t enough workers to go around.

They also cite gun violence and the lack of Medicaid expansion (which was included in the budget negotiations) as signs of an emergency.

All this leads them to conclude, “Their inability to get the job done means the governor should step in and declare a state of emergency.”

Now, we might want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are being figurative, hyperbolic, rhetorical. But they quickly take that option from us, by clarifying that they were calling for “Not the figurative [emergency] he announced in May concerning the legislature’s neglect of our public schools, but a literal one. This is no exercise in hyperbole or rhetoric.”

So, North Carolina, the state that people are flocking to from all over the country, that just won CNBC’s top state for business for the second year in a row, is apparently spiraling into chaos because of some longer-than-usual budget negotiations.

Someone should reassure Capitol Broadcasting by pointing out that, due to a recent change in law, if North Carolina doesn’t pass a budget, the government is simply funded at the levels of the past budget. So we will have a budget, just without the salary increases and policy changes (like Medicaid expansion and universal Opportunity Scholarships) that many had hoped for.

So, what would this literal, totally not hyperbolic or rhetorical emergency declaration mean for the state? Their plan is for Cooper to use this authority to order his cabinet agencies to expand Medicaid, give teachers and school administrators large pay raises, and fully fund the Leandro Plan for NC schools — basically all of Democrats’ top agenda items. They can dream; can’t they?

Calling these items “emergencies” seems a bit disingenuous though. North Carolina has not elected to expand Medicaid in the years since Obamacare was implemented, but now that the Republican General Assembly is poised to expand it, any slight delay has become an emergency worthy of imposing a statewide dictatorship?

The editorial goes on to say, “If legislators or other obstinate state officials want to go to court to stop Cooper, he should welcome the challenge.”

I wonder if those at Capitol Broadcasting also need to be reminded that the legislature passed a law, which went into affect at the beginning of this year, requiring that a governor get approval from the legislature and Council of State for emergency declarations that go beyond 30 days.

Implementing things as complex as the Leandro Plan and Medicaid expansion would likely take longer a month. Even if Cooper would “welcome the challenge” of being taken to court by Republicans, the NC Supreme Court is no longer the Democrat-majority body it once was. The whole idea then appears not only unhinged but also very unlikely to work out as the editorial board envisions.

A wider trend

Putting this totalitarian editorial aside, there is a wider trend at play here. Many on the left are using the language of “emergency” and “public health crisis” to get around clear checks and balances in how power is legally distributed.

The CDC declared a public health crisis around racism after the George Floyd protests (and riots) in 2020. Politicians frequently cite a “climate emergency” to spur immediate action on global warming. The governor of New Mexico even announced a gun violence emergency recently that, supposedly, justified her suspending the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

But any fair-minded person can see this is just lawlessness — just like the district attorneys who choose not to enforce certain laws or the “living document” justices who create convenient new interpretations of plain words. The fact that their policy preferences, regardless of how noble or urgent they believe them to be, are not being immediately implemented doesn’t give them the right to suspend the normal rule of law.

This may just be one goofy editorial from one left-wing publisher, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on this wider trend of declaring emergencies to grab power.