Archive for North Carolina

Jul
03

Ich bin ein Tar Heel

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Atlantic‘s Emma Green cites attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson on the effect Citizens United has had on local races across the country. The two debated the effects at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week. But let’s begin, as she does, quoting Norm Ornstein:

Loads of money—mostly conservative—went into judicial-retention elections in the last cycle in Florida, following a similar experience in 2010 in Iowa and Illinois. We saw similar efforts on a smaller scale in other states, including Wisconsin and Michigan. All had a ton of attack ads. Those efforts have exploded in the 2014 elections. In North Carolina, where repeal of the state’s Judicial Campaign Reform Act by the right-wing legislature opened the door to a further explosion of campaign spending, and where the GOP sees retaining a majority on the court (ostensibly, but risibly, nonpartisan) as a key to their continued hegemony in politics, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent $900,000 on an unsuccessful primary campaign to unseat Justice Robin Hudson, and will target Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV in his second attempt to move to the Supreme Court (the first one, in 2012, cost $4.5 million or more).

Ervin won that Supreme Court seat (defeating incumbent Robert N. Hunter, Jr.) as did incumbent Democrats Hudson and Cheri Beasley in these officially nonpartisan elections.

In Aspen, Ted Olson, who represented Citizens United lobbying firm, began:

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Jul
02

Another day, another boondoggle

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Stick a fork in it. Another of those public-private partnership deals is done. Investors are ready to bail:

Barely 10 years after paying the city $1.83 billion for the right to run the Chicago Skyway for 99 years, a Spanish-Australian group of investors has put the historic tollroad concession deal up for sale.

The Skyway concession company’s executives have informed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration they’re trying to sell their interest in running and collecting tolls from the 7.8-mile-long road on Chicago’s South Side, city officials said Monday.

And right on schedule, too. I described how these go down in December:

US and state taxpayers are left paying off billions in debt to bondholders who have received amazing returns on their money, as much as 13 per cent, as virtually all – if not all – of these private P3 toll operators go bankrupt within 15 years of what is usually a five-plus decade contract.

A “staggering” number go bankrupt, Salzman continues.

Of course, no executive comes forward and says, “We’re planning to go bankrupt,” but an analysis of the data is shocking. There do not appear to be any American private toll firms still in operation under the same management 15 years after construction closed. The original toll firms seem consistently to have gone bankrupt or “zeroed their assets” and walked away, leaving taxpayers a highway now needing repair and having to pay off the bonds and absorb the loans and the depreciation.

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You knew it was coming as soon as calls to remove Confederate battle flags caught fire across the South starting in Columbia, SC:

The Ku Klux Klan has been approved to hold a protest rally at the Statehouse next month against removing the Confederate battle flag, with the group calling accused mass murderer Dylann Roof a “young warrior.”

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan applied for the permit last week to hold a rally for 100 to 200 people on July 18 on the north side of the Statehouse.

If you are holding your breath for Fox News’ Griff Jenkins to cover the Klan rally live just to remind us all that racism is dead and only racists and race baiters say otherwise, don’t.

Actually, this Klan group hails from North Carolina:

Calling itself the “Largest Klan in America,” the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are based in Pelham, N.C., according to the group’s website.

A man identifying himself as the “great titan” of the N.C. chapter of the Loyal White Knights left a message with The State saying his group is holding the demonstration because “to us they are erasing white history and white culture right out of the history books. That’s why they want to take that flag down.”

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Jun
27

Hearts still need to be opened

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In “the land of the free,” the fight for equality is far from over.

In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges  that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in all 50 states. We won’t dwell this morning on the particulars of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority decision, nor on Justice Antonin Scalia’s bitter dissent, but rather on what comes next.

Marriage equality victory rally last night in Asheville, NC. 

At the victory rally in Asheville, NC last night, social justice activists addressed the crowd:

“It’s extraordinary,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “There are people who have been waiting their whole lives to marry the person they love, and now they are equal under the law. Think about the families racing to the courthouse in Mississippi right now. I’m overwhelmed by the emotion and historical significance of this. It took decades and decades of work to get to this moment.”

Now, about Mississippi …

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Jun
24

Patching the Voting Rights Act

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The hole the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling blew in the Voting Rights Act will get patched this session if Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Georgia’s Congressman John Lewis have anything to say about it. They plan to introduce legislation today to repair the damage. Ari Berman has this scoop at The Nation:

… The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 would compel states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, require federal approval for voter ID laws, and outlaw new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote.

According to the Washington Post:

The bill is the latest in what has been an ongoing effort to restore the preclearence provision of the Voting Rights Act, which required many southern states to have any change to voting laws cleared by federal officials. The Supreme Court, in its 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision, tossed the formula used to determine which states need preclearence, effectively ending the federal government’s role as a monitor to state voting changes until a new formula is approved by Congress.

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Jun
17

The business of business

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President Calvin Coolidge once said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” But in examining the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trade Promotion Authority, etc., one can see the business of business is not America.

It was clear last week that the TPP and TPA (fast track) were not dead, but unlike Monty Python’s parrot, really just resting. Politico reports on maneuvers by House Speaker John Boehner and Republican leaders to revive fast track:

Under the emerging plan, the House would vote on a bill that would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim countries, sending it to the Senate for final approval. To alleviate Democratic concerns, the Senate then would amend a separate bill on trade preferences to include Trade Adjustment Assistance, a worker aid program that Republicans oppose but that House Democrats have blocked to gain leverage in the negotiations over fast-track.

Decoupling TAA and TPA might be a non-starter with many Democrats. But the political mechanics are not as interesting as the broader trajectory of dealings between government and business.

In any of these deals, no matter what the promised benefits, the general public always seems to come out holding the short end of the stick. You can smell it. Somebody is going to make a lot of money. It’s just never us. We get to do the paying.

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County elections staff met here last night with party officials to discuss recruiting election judges and poll workers for the next two years.** It all went smoothly until a man in the back asked what was being done to prevent people from voting here and then voting absentee in another state. You might as well ask what North Carolina is doing to prevent its 10 million residents from robbing convenience stores in Florida.

The electoral paranoia behind that question — and the Republican-sponsored voting restrictions spawned nationwide by it — was on Hillary Clinton’s mind yesterday when she called for universal, automatic voter registration at a speech in Houston yesterday. Reporters knew the speech would be about voting rights, Rachel Maddow noted last night, but nobody knew Clinton was about to “let rip” on the subject of voting rights:

[W]e have a responsibility to say clearly and directly what’s really going on in our country—because what is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other.

[snip]

North Carolina passed a bill that went after pretty much anything that makes voting more convenient or more accessible. Early voting. Same-day registration. The ability of county election officials to even extend voting hours to accommodate long lines.

Now what possible reason could there be to end pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and eliminate voter outreach in high schools?

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Jun
04

NC State Board of Elections Public Hearings on Voter ID Rules

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This post stay on top thru Thursday. New material below.

From Democracy NC:

NC State Board of Elections Public Hearings on Voter ID Rules

June 10th: Boone 5:00-7:00 @ 814 West King Street, Boone
June 11th: Sylva 5:00-7:00 @876 Skyland Drive, Suite 1, Sylva

RSVP for the Sylva Photo ID Public Hearing

RSVP for the Boone Hearing

These are the only hearings that will occur on the “Voter ID” (HB589) rules that will come into effect in 2016. Democracy NC is seeking individuals to attend the hearing & make public comments.
We will organize car pools or possibly get shuttles out to Sylva.
Please email Darlene@democracy-nc.org or call (828)216-3430 to RSVP

Some key facts are:
– The bill not only requires government-issued ID at the polls, but takes away one week of early voting, eliminates pre-registration of 16-17 year olds,terminates out-of-precinct voting, and eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period.
-These rules are said to impact at least 210,000 North Carolinians- and these are only the folks that the DMV lists generated; 40% of these individuals are students.
-There are only 9 hearings throughout the state, 2 of which are in Western NC. In fact, Dem NC just lobbied to get another location added in the “black belt” and it worked- they added a site in Tarboro.
-This is likely to be the only opportunity that citizens will have to speak out about the rules that have been drafted as a result of the Monster Law.

We are looking for folks to make public comments. If people know of an individual who has encountered problems with getting an ID, please urge them to speak- as these are the stories we need the SBOE rule-makers to hear. Other folks that have a powerful stance include, but certainly aren’t limited to: individuals who don’t have easy public transportation to the DMV; high school teachers (per the removal of pre-registration for 16-17 year olds); college teachers (per the impact on college students given the complications with the state ID requirement/student IDs not being accepted); employees of the DMV; employees of social agencies; individuals who have been involved in voter registration drives; and last but certainly not least, passionate citizens who see this legislation as an unnecessary barrier to exercising a critical civic duty.

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May
29

“I’m really sorry for what’s about to happen.”

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As the saying goes, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Perhaps you remember #JustOneLegislator from February? Freshman North Carolina state senator Jeff Jackson made national news when the Charlotte Democrat was the only legislator to show up for work in Raleigh after a snowstorm. Jackson took to Twitter to muse about all the things he was getting done as a legislature of one. His Tweets landed him on Buzzfeed and made him Rachel Maddow’s Best New Thing in the World.

It turns out it really is a lot easier to get things done when Republican leaders stay home.

Jackson filed two bills in March meant to clean up some loopholes in existing laws, one concerning the definition of statutory rape and another regarding federal sex offenders. In Jackson’s words, “low-hanging fruit.” No-brainer legislation with Republican co-sponsors. But the bills stalled in committee. One GOP legislator apologized, saying, “I’m really sorry for what’s about to happen.”

An editorial in the Charlotte Observer explains:

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May
23

Big donor just wants to serve Man

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We’re not exactly envious of the state of Oklahoma where Charlie Pierce ends his regular peek into the Laboratories of Democracy. Let’s just say there’s some serious experimentin’ he’s missed going on in the Tarheel State. A major donor Republican donor earlier this week put a fountain pen to his temple and told North Carolina’s GOP legislators that if he doesn’t get the tax and spending cuts he wants, their $25,000 donation gets it:

Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy, who chairs the board of the conservative Civitas Institute think tank and is an influential financial supporter of conservative candidates, emailed a sharp critique of the House budget to House Republicans, who are in the majority.

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