Archive for NC Legislature

Nov
12

A gated democracy

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Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco. Image by Almonroth via Wikimedia Commons

The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years the New York Times declares this morning, condemning continued efforts to suppress turnout among poor, minority and younger voters. They don’t even bother to add qualifiers anymore when calling out Republicans for voter suppression.

Sean McElwee at Huffington Post runs down some preliminary analysis of new voting restrictions. Photo ID laws, eliminating same-day registration, and felon disenfranchisement were contributing factors in the low turnout.

More than 600,000 in Texas could not vote this year because they lacked the newly required documents. How many tried and were turned away? The nonpartisan Election Protection Voter help line received over 2,000 calls in Texas, according to the Brennan Center’s director of its Democracy Program, Wendy Weiser. A federal judge had determined that the Texas law was purposely designed to suppress minority votes.

As Ari Berman wrote last week, “Since Republican legislatures across the country implemented new voting restrictions after 2010 and the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, it’s become easier to buy an election and harder to vote in one.”

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Nov
10

Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Call

Republicans tighten grip in Southern state legislatures

Just not here.

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Aug
14

Drones Over Your Homes

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So in North Carolina’s capitol, one of Charlie Pierce’s Laboratories Of Democracy, Gov. Pat McCrory is rushing to fix items in the budget he signed just days ago. Like a “provision that would stop automatically paying for enrollment growth at public schools.” 

It’s just another of those items slipped anonymously into a must-pass budget bill. Among the hidden pearls is this ALEC-inspired gem found by Asheville-based activist Barry Summers. He wrote about it this week in the Asheville Citizen-Times: 

H1099 was never heard by any Senate committee, but it has become State law nonetheless. It allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events (including those on private property) or any place which is in “plain view” of a law enforcement officer. It has other loopholes and deficiencies which taken altogether, make a mockery of the “right-to-privacy” anywhere but inside your home with the shades drawn tight.

More at Hullabaloo.

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Aug
04

TODAY: Mountain Moral Monday 2

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snake lineRise Above The Snake Line!

MOUNTAIN MORAL MONDAY RETURNS TO WNC!

Join folks from across the region and state for another energizing and inspiring Mountain Moral Monday – “Moral March to the Polls Rally” on August 4, from 5-6:30 pm at Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville.

The Mountain People’s Assembly, a coalition of WNC organizations, and regional WNC NAACP Branches, will host the return of Mountain Moral Monday, a non-partisan program that will highlight the destructive policies enacted by the N.C. statehouse over the past year while strongly focusing on the voter empowerment campaign, “Moral March to the Polls.”

The event will feature Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the NC NAACP and other guest speakers, as well as musical entertainment. In addition, there will be opportunities for participants to get involved in voter registration, education and Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts during the current mid-term election cycle. ‘Moral Freedom Summer’ Organizers and volunteers will be available to help register voters.

To sign on as a supporter or for more information, email info@mountainmoralmonday.org.

We look forward to seeing you there

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Jun
28

Dead Men: Tell No Tallies

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The voter suppression people make Thom Tillis look sane. Yes, it’s come to this.

The head of the Voter Integrity Project (VIP-NC) was on Pete Kalliner’s show on Monday urging listeners to call their representatives to oppose this Tillis-sponsored bill that passed unanimously in the NC House (115-0).

AN ACT TO CLARIFY THAT A VOTER WHO CASTS A MAIL-IN ABSENTEE BALLOT OR AN IN-PERSON ONE-STOP EARLY VOTE AND DIES THEREAFTER MAY NOT HAVE THAT BALLOT CHALLENGED ON ACCOUNT OF DEATH

VIP-NC objects.

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First, there was slavery. This is something new, writes Charlie Pierce.

A few weeks back, I quoted this in the Citizen-Times:

“It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. I am not willing to defend them anymore.”

– retiring Wisconsin state Senator Dale Schultz, the sole Senate Republican to oppose early voting limits

Except that’s not all they are pouring their energy into.

Each week, Moral Monday groups in Raleigh protest legislation passed by political vandals bent on unmaking the 20th century in North Carolina. The vandals’ allies are at work attempting to do the same across the country, uprooting the systems put in place that built America into a superpower. Not weapons systems, but systems put in place by the people and for the people to make their lives just a little bit better.

Political vandals wearing flag pins and waving Gadsden flags consider those systems — the country everyday Americans built in the 20th century — an abomination, and believe themselves to be our betters, not “traditional” Americans. This week, Cynthis Greene shot back at NC Speaker Thom Tillis for saying so:

Let’s just be clear, Thom: I’m not interested in your brand of tradition; I’m interested in the best, most humane traditions of our state. And I think you need a history lesson: Our North Carolina was a state that opened some of the nation’s first public health departments and publicly funded libraries—signs that at least some people in government cared about public health and education.

Not that Tillis, his bosses, or his acolytes will hear any of it. They’re too busy trying to work around a legal inconvenience called the North Carolina constitution, as Gene Nichol observed last week:

When our legislators move beyond the enactment of preferred policies to restrict access to the courts, or breach judicial independence, or constrain rights of expression and petition, or trump local government prerogative, or tilt the electoral playing field, they alter the structure, balance and legitimacy of government. They declare: “There’s a new sheriff in town, it’s our way or the highway and we’ve widened the on-ramp.” Huey Long must be proud.

Indeed. Yet it is more than just arrogance, but a kind of religious fervor. What markets itself as political ideology has, in fact, become more like a political cult full of fundamentalist zeal lending “a new kind of systematized cruelty” to our politics, as Charlie Pierce put it over at Esquire:

We cheer for cruelty and say that we are asking for personal responsibility among those people who are not us, because the people who are not us do not deserve the same benefits of the political commonwealth that we have. In our politics, we have become masters of camouflage. We practice fiscal cruelty and call it an economy. We practice legal cruelty and call it justice. We practice environmental cruelty and call it opportunity. We practice vicarious cruelty and call it entertainment. We practice rhetorical cruelty and call it debate. We set the best instincts of ourselves in conflict with each other until they tear each other to ribbons, and until they are no longer our best instincts but something dark and bitter and corroborate with itself. And then it fights all the institutions that our best instincts once supported, all the elements of the political commonwealth that we once thought permanent, all the arguments that we once thought settled — until there is a terrible kind of moral self-destruction that touches those institutions and leaves them soft and fragile and, eventually, evanescent. We do all these things, cruelty running through them like hot blood, and we call it our politics.

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Jun
18

Moral Monday: June 16, 2014

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The work continues.

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Jun
10

Asheville Wins Water Lawsuit

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Photo by Gordon Smith.

Photo by Gordon Smith.

Wake County Superior Court ruled Monday in favor of the City of Asheville in its lawsuit opposing a state law transferring control of the city’s water system to a regional authority.
Asheville officials said Monday that Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. ruled state lawmakers last year violated the state constitution and failed to compensate for the cost of building the water system.

The Asheville Citizen-Times cites the mayor on the court ruling:

Mayor Esther Manheimer said that by taking the city’s position on four of the six legal points at issue, Manning’s ruling would be more difficult for the Court of Appeals to overturn. The decision does not address the two other points the city raised, that the law was an unlawful interference with the city’s contract with bondholders.

Manheimer called the ruling “great for Asheville.”

City legal staff certainly deserves a nod for all the hard work. But nobody worked longer hours and more doggedly on this fight — including all the round trips to Raleigh for hearings — than local activist Barry Summers.

But Summers and other opponents of a regionalized system had better be ready for the next round. The state will likely appeal the ruling. The law’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, called the court ruling “the first step in a very long journey.” And should the ruling stand, Moffitt might legislate again if he can find support among his colleagues for a more broadly written bill that puts more of their cities’ infrastructure in the crosshairs.

Unless Moffitt loses his House District 116 reelection bid this fall. A recent poll PPP poll released by his opponent, Brian Turner, showed Turner with a slight lead and 49 percent of voter with an unfavorable view of Moffitt.

Jun
02

Political Pushmi-Pullyu

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Hearing more anecdotes about rank-and-file Republicans seriously peeved with Raleigh and Thom Tillis. Guy I met last night has a Republican aunt in Wilkes Co. (Foxx territory) — retired 30-yr teacher. He’s never seen her hot like this — over cuts to teaching assistants and programs. And she’s not buying the GOP spin on teacher raises.

But will she hold her nose, throw the bums out, or just stay home this fall?

The GOP is pushing people towards Democrats, but are Democrats in Raleigh pulling? We’d better have more of a game plan for the fall than “we’re not them.” That won’t motivate Democratic turnout or crossover voters. Disgruntled voters need something affirmative to vote for.

What should it be?

Another day in Wake County Superior Court yesterday in the case of “Moffitt v. Asheville,” Judge Howard Manning Jr. presiding. Rep. Tim Moffitt and Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson were on hand for the hearing in the lawsuit challenging Moffitt’s “Regionalization of Public Utilities” law that forcibly transfers control of Asheville’s water system to a new regional authority.

Much hinges on whether or not Moffitt’s bill was deliberately written to evade the state’s constitutional ban in Article 2, Sec. 24 on enacting local legislation “relating to health, sanitation, and the abatement of nuisances.” Asheville activist Barry Summers was there to remind attendees — graphically — not of the water system’s history, but of the legislation’s.

While both McGrady and Moffitt watched the proceedings in court, Asheville’s attorney Dan Clodfelter disagreed with the state’s assertion that the bill was not local in nature. An attorney with the Charlotte-based law firm Moore and Van Allen, Clodfelter himself served as a state senator until last month, when he was named the mayor of Charlotte.

The bill does not specifically name the city of Asheville. But Clodfelter said it was clear that was lawmakers’ intent, rather than creating a statewide bill with a general set of principles to administer.

“Our constitution says what it says,” Manning said, indicating that the constitutional question was the crux of the case. Expect an appeal, however Manning rules.

Moffitt v. Asheville is a style of legal shenanigans we have seen emerge over the last decade from Wall Street to Jones Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. That is, to push the limits of the law to the breaking point and beyond, to knowingly step over the line and — using the law itself for cover — to arrogantly dare anyone to push back. If no one does, or if they do and fail, those who twist the law to their own ends succeed, and the boundary between the legal and the criminal moves again, and not in the direction of the public good. Rinse, repeat. Thus, torture becomes “enhanced interrogation,” fraudulent securities become top-rated investments, and public investments in schools, water systems, highways and airports slowly become the private wealth of oligarchs. Like watching an accident in which everything goes into slow motion, it is happening before our very eyes. Because it transpires in remote meeting rooms under color of law, we the people are not supposed to notice.

(Original post has been corrected. Rep. Nathan Ramsey was not in attendance Friday, but was cited in reporting as an original sponsor of the water bill.)