One of the more negative aspects of the recent passage of the state budget was the stripping of state fire marshal duties from Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Sadly, this is the kind of stuff that happens when you – like Causey did – report an attempted bribe to the FBI and criticize a sweetheart deal for a big donor to legislative Republicans:
One of North Carolina’s top Republican politicians blasted his fellow GOP leaders in the state legislature Monday, saying that he was blindsided by a provision in the new state budget that makes a big policy change in his department.
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey says a provision that strips him of a key fire-safety role was tucked away in the budget without any prior public debate.
In North Carolina the state insurance commissioner, one of 10 statewide elected officials, also serves as fire marshal. Currently that’s Causey, a Republican who won election to the role in 2016 and again in 2020.
The budget would remove that power from Causey and any future insurance commissioners by instead creating a separate state fire marshal. The insurance commissioner would pick the fire marshal, the new rule proposes, but the state legislature would have the ability to block someone from taking office in that role.
Causey says he was never asked for his own opinion before the change was pushed through in the state budget, which passed Friday, and that other fire safety officials across the state were also in the dark.
“I especially detest the way these items were added without input from the department, the State Firefighters Association, county fire marshals or fire chiefs,” Causey wrote on Monday. “I have yet to meet the first person outside of the General Assembly that favors an independent State Fire Marshal.”
Tim Bradley, who leads the North Carolina State Firefighters Association, confirmed that nobody asked his group about the changes either.
“All I could say I we were surprised by the change,” he said. “The [Insurance] Commissioner’s position has been State Fire Marshal for decades.”
It’s unclear who suggested that the provision be added to the budget or why. Spokespeople for legislative leaders didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, and the budget itself was negotiated in secret
The change appears part of a broader trend at the legislature in recent years of stripping power from the executive branch and giving it to the legislature instead. Many of the changes have targeted Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, but others have targeted GOP leaders, such as Causey. Some of those moves have been ruled unconstitutional, and various parts of the new budget could face lawsuits as well.
Lawmakers passed the budget last week without committee hearings or other opportunities for the general public to comment on what was or wasn’t included. And it was done in a procedural way that also prohibited any changes from being made once it did become public, less than 24 hours before being voted on.
The limited transparency, following months of secret negotiations, has angered advocates of government transparency. Now the ranks of critics include Causey, one of the state’s top Republican politicians.
“No input or discussion allowed on changes to the Office of the State Fire Marshal is very disturbing,” he said.
Causey has been at odds with others in the GOP before. He wore a wire for the FBI to inform on his own party’s relationship with Greg Lindberg. The billionaire Durham businessman was the largest donor to the North Carolina Republican Party — until his 2020 conviction for trying to use those political contributions as bribes.[…]
Causey also took a stand against legislative leaders seeking to change law that could potentially be quite lucrative for Blue Cross NC – a huge donor to legislative Republicans.