23 Skidoo | Eastern North Carolina Now

Tom Campbell
    Here's my parting message for the year: "23 skidoo." Readers "of a certain age," know this early 20th century slang expression. For you young whippersnappers the phrase means get out of here, beat it, good riddance or good-bye.

    I've yet to run into anyone who isn't really glad to say good-bye to 2023. And to think, we didn't believe things could get worse at the end of '22. They did.

    Where to begin? 2023 was the year Congress couldn't get any significant legislative work done, while our General Assembly in Raleigh attempted to do everything. Despite holding 724 votes, Congress passed only 27 bills, the fewest since 1932. And only a handful were of any consequence. There was some entertainment value to watching the House elect a Speaker, get bored and kick him out, finally playing odd man to see who would replace him.

    For much of the year a respected panel worked but were unable to reach a cease-fire with Donald Trump. He was ubiquitous. Is it true Charmin is about to introduce a paper with his image?

    It was the year of the great inflation decline, the highest stock market prices ever and consumers spending like drunken sailors, but people thought things stunk.


    Here in Cackalacky we got plenty of entertainment. Governor Cooper set an all-time record by vetoing 19 "culture war" bills. They would have stayed vetoed had it not been for "Benedict Arnold" Cotham, a turncoat who switched sides and joined the Republicans. You could smell the pork Cotham's legislative district received as payment for her treachery.

    This legislature aborted our 20-week abortion law, curtailing it to 12 weeks. Waving the "Remember HB2" flag they passed a panoply of bills calling out Transgender and LGBTQ+ citizens. They raped our Community College system, taking total control. They now have absolute sway over two of the three education branches in our state. But they want the trifecta. For years Republicans have schemed to dismantle traditional k-12 public schools. This year they took a giant step, passing about $500 million in vouchers so that anyone who can fog a mirror can go to a private school. The cherry on top of their education dessert was The Parent's Bill of Rights. When enrollments declined 3.6 percent in traditional k-12 schools and there were widespread teacher shortages, their smarmy response was, "See, we told you public schools won't work."

    There were some bumps along the road. In a session that was the biggest power grab since Reconstruction, the US Supreme Court threw lawmakers a curve ball, proclaiming they didn't have absolute authority over elections. In retaliation, Republicans smugly gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts, then restricted voting to keep them in control 'til Jesus comes again. It didn't escape notice that these new maps carefully carved out a district for Speaker Moore to get elected to Congress.


    Our state had billions in savings, but there was a bitter division over whether to spend any of the record surplus on "wasteful" things like roads, bridges, school buildings or mental health centers or to realize their fantasies of completely eliminating taxes. Nobody was surprised tax cuts won, even though their own legislative analysts told leadership the cuts would likely result in budget shortfalls in a few years. Not to worry, the minority of the minority party who really run the state said. They would open gambling casinos in strategic locations (especially in the Senate Leader's home county) and impose huge taxes on them to balance the budget.

    Who would have ever guessed the Freedom Caucus would break the stalemate? Finally, in September, three months late, they passed a budget. It had so much pork in it a swine shortage resulted. Governor Cooper held his nose and signed the budget into law because legislators held Medicaid expansion as blackmail if he vetoed it.

    2023 was the year that the Atlantic Coast Conference imploded. The final straw was when Florida State was dissed in the bowl bids. We hear as many as 6 more schools want to enter the transfer portal hoping to get a big NIL (name, image and likeness) payday. When will we ever admit that "amateur" sports are running our colleges and universities?

    While we didn't experience major hurricanes, we did have tornados, floods and widespread drought. What if there really were climate change?

    Once again, we were named one of the top ten states in the nation for business competitiveness and saw more plant and job announcements than since Jim Hunt was in knee britches. Too bad they will spend hours on congested roads getting to and from work.

    At year's end we received a $1 billion grant to build a highspeed passenger rail service to Richmond. We're going to need a way to get out of town after we vote for Trump and Mark Robinson in '24.


    Like I said, 23 Skidoo.

Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program NC SPIN that aired 22 ˝ years. Contact him at tomcamp@carolinabroadcasting.com.
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