Speaker Pro Tempore Acceptance Speech – Magna Carta in 2015

January 20th, 2015 by

2015 Organizational Session

North Carolina House of Representatives

Rep. Paul Stam – Acceptance Speech

January 14, 2015

(edited for grammar and clarity)

Click HERE to listen to the audio.

Click HERE for a Video of Rep. Stam’s speech on the Magna Carta by Kelly McCullen – Sr. Producer, UNC-TV’s “Legislative Week in Review”

Speaker Pro Tempore Paul Stam acceptance speech (1:08:26):

Members, guests, Justices Edmunds, Newby and Jackson; I am especially pleased that former Speaker Pro Tem Jack Hunt is here today. He and I served together many years ago when I was young and he was distinguished.

I accept your election. Two years ago on this occasion, I thanked my family and I used the examples of my eldest grandsons for some lessons on how we could do legislation better. But they are here today and I am not going to embarrass Aidan and Will.

This is a time to be reminded of first principles.

And 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.  Members of the House would be shocked – shocked if I did not mention it and draft it into the service of the House.

Magna Carta was a deal between the nobility and King John.  He was in deep trouble and barely kept the crown and perhaps his life by making 63 campaign promises. In Section 25 he promised “Every county shall remain at its ancient rent without increase.”  Some issues never die.  Tax increases and unfunded mandates were not invented last year.

Litigation, then and now, requires years to complete. His campaign promise 40 provides “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay, right or justice”.  Many of us are working now to realize that promise so that the resolution of criminal charges, at least, may require only months and not years.

In a day when the principles of free trade and free enterprise are attacked from the right and the left King John’s campaign promise number 41 provides – and I should say this is all in Latin so this is translated for all of us – “All merchants may enter or leave England unharmed and without fear, by land or water, for purposes of trade, free from all illegal exactions in accordance with ancient and lawful customs.”  Free trade and free enterprise have many friends – except when its friends think it damages their own pocketbooks. 800 years ago the English realized that free trade and free enterprise are powerful engines of economic growth for the state as a whole.

Environmental issues didn’t just surface fifty years ago. 800 years ago there were those advocating locking up of land from use by the public.   Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham came to blows over this question.  Robin Hood won when campaign promise number 47 provided “All forests” – remember he was exiled to the forests and he was in trouble for shooting the King’s deer – “All forests that have been created in our reign shall at once be disafforested and a similar course shall be followed with regard to river banks.” I am not advocating today that we literally fulfill this campaign promise by eliminating the parks at Grandfather Mountain and places like that. I’m just saying this is not a new issue.

Religious Liberty is always an issue.  In 1215 the first and last sections of Magna Carta protected the church from the government.  In 2015 when the Little Sisters of the Poor, a charitable order of nuns, is threatened with massive fines by the federal government, we need a restoration of religious freedom. When we next reconvene on January 28 there will be a legislative briefing on that subject, open to all.

Magna Carta even addresses separation of powers.  And I am glad Senator Tillis is here today because he may get an idea here from promise number 61. North Carolina was perhaps the first state to place that principle of separation of powers in its constitution, on instruction from the inhabitants, Rep. Insko, of Orange County to the Provincial Assembly in 1776:  But what is the remedy for usurpation of power by an Executive like King John?  Is it lawsuits?  Magna Carta suggested a unique consequence.  This requires not only a translation from Latin to English but a paraphrase so that you may enjoy it. Senator Tillis, take note.

King John made campaign promise number 61:  “If we, or our Attorney General, offend in any respect against any man and offense is made known to the Senate (that is the 25 chosen barons) they shall come to us or to the Attorney General – to declare it and claim immediate redress.  If we, or the Attorney General, make no redress within 40 days – 40 days – the Senate may then distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, our lands, our possessions, and anything else, except only our own person and that of the First Lady and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. And having secured that redress the Senate may then resume its normal obedience to us.”  That would really turn things around in Washington.

Let us enjoy the session as we address new challenges, new technology, new demographics and the ideas of new representatives.  But old principles will often suggest the way forward.

Thank you very much for your election.