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There’s a scourge threatening the neighborhoods of North Carolina. Thankfully, it’s no match for the long arm of the legislature.
Earlier this month, a Republican lawmaker did what lawmakers do best — identified a crisis, then set the wheels of justice in motion so that the good people of his state could be protected from
“There’s a problem in the streets of North Carolina with people mowing their grass, and the clippings blow out in the road,” Rep. John Torbett of Gaston County told the NC Insider.
Torbett has introduced a bill that would nab these evildoers by changing the definition of litter to include “grass clippings, leaves, shrubbery trimmings and any other plant material resulting from lawn maintenance and other horticultural gardening and landscaping activities.” House Bill 104 would slap those neighborhood litterers with a $100 fine.
What is this, the General Assembly Homeowners Association?
Each legislative session, we do our best to ignore eyebrow-raising bills that don’t stand much of a chance of passage. Often, these bills are a response to a legislator’s pet peeve, a random constituent complaint, or are just designed to be something a lawmaker can brag on to the folks back home next election. HB 104 has all the makings of this legislative silly season, except for this: It’s backed by powerful House Speaker Tim Moore. That grants it instant legitimacy — bad idea or not.
Let’s put aside for the moment the question of how a grass clippings law would be enforced, or how much time and resources might be wasted responding to people turning in neighbors for some leaves that just blew across the street. Let’s talk instead about how North Carolina Republicans, the champions of small and non-intrusive government, can’t help themselves when it comes to sticking their legislative snout in everyone’s business.
From coveting Asheville’s water system and Charlotte’s airport to meddling in local billboard regulations and even local rules about inspecting rental properties, the House and Senate are filled with municipal government wannabes.
But N.C. Republicans don’t just like to punch down. They’re also getting involved in federal affairs, specifically the relationship between city and county law enforcement and federal immigration officials.
A bill this month from four N.C. Republicans would fine members of law enforcement up to $1,500 if they don’t honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency requests to detain immigrants who might be here illegally. These detainer requests are not backed by court orders, and they can place law enforcement in legal jeopardy for holding people without a warrant.
Several U.S. counties stopped honoring detainer requests after an Oregon woman successfully sued her county in 2014 for violating her rights by holding her for ICE.
N.C. lawmakers shouldn’t force local law enforcement to potentially violate someone’s federal rights, and they shouldn’t interfere in how counties try to navigate the delicate landscape of federal immigration laws while doing what’s best for their communities.
But N.C. Republicans aren’t very good at staying in their lanes, whether they’re covered in grass clippings or not.