Archive for NC Legislature

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
10

The missing 40,000 NC voters

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An analysis posted Thursday at Daily Kos found that since Pat McCrory moved into the North Carolina governor’s mansion, voter registration applications received through state public service agencies (as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993) have fallen off drastically. DocDawg and colleagues did some data mining:

Finding 1: A systematic sharp decline in new voter registrations originating from Public Assistance (PA) programs began on or about January 2013 and continues to this day
Figure 1, below, summarizes statewide new voter registrations originating from PA programs, by month, and compares these with new voter registrations originating from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Fig. 1: North Carolina new voter registrations originating via Public Assistance programs (top panel) and via the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (bottom panel) from May 2010 through March 2015. Red and green horizontal lines indicate overall averages for the periods May 2010 through December 2012 (green lines; “Pre-McCrory Average”) and January 2013 through March 2015 (red lines; “McCrory Average”). Months for which reports are missing, or contain incomplete data, are excluded from these averages (5/2010, 9/2010, 3/2011, 5/2011, 8/2011, 5/2012, 6/2012, and 3/2015).

In all, “an overall deficit of 39,177 ‘missing voters’ (i.e., NC citizens who would have been registered had this decline not occurred).” Checking for benign explanations, the study finds that the decline does not appear to be connected to an improving economy and “occurs statewide, not merely in a handful of counties.”

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Apr
26

Shall NC Appellate Judges Face Retention?

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House Bill 222 Retention Elections/Appellate Division passed the NC House last week and is now in the Senate Rules Committee. According to the Carolina Journal, here’s how retention elections for appellate level judges would work (emphasis mine):

Under the legislation, appellate judges would continue to take office initially by winning a two-candidate election. To serve a second or subsequent term, however, a “retention” election would be held at the end of the term, with voters asking to approve or disapprove the jurist. Any judges who do not get the approval of 50 percent or more of the voters would leave office, and the governor would appoint a replacement who would serve until the next general election, where he or she could win a full term in a two-candidate election. Retention elections would apply only to judges who have been elected, not to those who were appointed to the bench by the governor.

The process for replacing judges who were defeated in a retention election would be the same as that for judges who retire, resign, die in office, or are removed during their terms.

Which is to say, the governor gets to appoint replacements until the next general election, roughly two years. All three of Buncombe County’s House Democrats voted for the bill.

Judges having to raise money and campaign for office has always seemed a bit seedy. But while this bill would bring North Carolina closer to the Missouri Plan used in several states, where judges are appointed after vetting by a panel, it doesn’t quite get there.

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Apr
23

NC-116 Town Hall

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From Rep. Brian Turner’s office:

On Saturday April 25th Rep. Brian Turner will host his second in a series of Town Hall meetings for the constituents of House District 116. The Town Hall will be held at the Leicester Community Center at 3:00 PM.

Who: Representative Brian Turner
What: Town Hall Meeting Regarding the Long Session When: Saturday, April 25th 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Where: Leicester Community Center

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Apr
03

Everybody’s wise to Eddie except Eddie

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For those growing up in the 1960s, Eddie Haskell from the sitcom “Leave It to Beaver” was our archetype for the conniving, two-faced schemer. Superficially polite — over-polite — when parents were present, he dropped the facade and became his true, devious self whenever the adults left the room. IIRC, at the end of one episode, Eddie gets his comeuppance. As he is led away, he is still working his Mr. Innocent routine, mystified that it seems not to be sparing him punishment. Wally Cleaver turns to his little brother and observes, “Everybody’s wise to Eddie except Eddie.”

It’s not a new observation that conservative politics often exhibits the same public/private, two-faced quality. This week’s sideshow in Indiana over its Religious Freedom Restoration Act bought Eddie to mind again. Protestations that the bill meant to protect religious practice rather than license discrimination were just as transparent.

In the sitcom, Ward and June Cleaver always play along with Eddie’s innocent act, never confronting him about being a fraud, and tacitly encouraging him to keep lying. In real life, don’t our Wards and Junes of the press do the same?

A radio newscast last night reported that RFRA supporters in Indiana complained that the changes made to the law yesterday under national pressure had stripped the law of its religious protections. That is, the right of business owners to use their religious belief to discriminate against customers.

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Mar
25

Coming Soon To An Interstate Near You

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Remember me warning you about Thom’s Tholl Road? Coming soon to an interstate near you? Via Barry Summers. Introduced in the NC Senate:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

AN ACT to direct the department of transportation to study ways to fund improvements to interstate 95.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. Study. – The Department of Transportation shall study ways to fund improvements to Interstate 95 from the South Carolina to Virginia borders, including the feasibility of establishing tolls and managed lanes.

It’s been “studied” since 2010 at least:

North Carolina tolling I-95 being studied

Here’s the group that was fighting it in 2012: http://notollsi95.com/

How long before they’re “studying” it for I-26?

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Mar
24

The Digital Senator on Redistricting

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State Sen. Jeff Jackson went from Twitter to Vimeo:

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Mar
15

They’ve got a little list

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A few weeks ago, we looked at how Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin is using his position to weaken and eliminate pockets of political opposition. The University of Wisconsin system, specifically. Chris Hayes had observed:

There’s something sort of ingenious about this from a political standpoint. It seems to me that one of his M.O.s in office has been to sort of use policy as a mechanism by which to reduce the political power of people that would oppose him — progressives, the left. I mean, go after the unions, right? Which is a huge pillar of progressive power in the state of Wisconsin. And another big pillar of progressive power in the state, frankly, is the university system.

I noted that Republicans in North Carolina were using the same M.O. Since then there have been more efforts by the NCGOP at legislatively targeting political opponents. Democrats swept the four open seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners last November? No problem.

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Mar
10

Nice democracy you got there

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If you have been following the travails of states under “small government” Republican rule, this will sound familiar. After 59 percent of voters in the city of Denton, Texas voted on November 4 to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in their town, well, Republican lawmakers in Austin are rethinking that whole “bringing democracy closer to the people” thing. Representative Phil King (R) of Weatherford has introduced two bills to prohibit city voters from controlling what happens within their own borders.

King, who per the Center for Media and Democracy sits on the executive board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is leading the charge to restrict pesky Texas citizens from exercising democracy when it interferes with the oil and gas bidness:

According to The New York Times, eight states led by Republicans have prohibited municipalities from passing paid sick day legislation in just the past two years. Other such preemption laws have barred cities from raising the minimum wage and regulating the activities of landlords. This year, Arkansas passed a law that blocks a city’s ability to pass anti-discrimination laws that would protect LGBT people, and bills introduced in six states this session would follow Arkansas’ lead.

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Feb
17

This is How That Happened

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by Barry Summers

Late in 2013, I was reading a press release from a local state legislator, which publicized his being named chair of a new NC House committee. At the bottom, he listed all the other committees he was currently on, and just on a whim, I compared it to the official list of committees on his legislative website. There was exactly one missing from the press release: “House Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems”. That got me curious, and that’s how I eventually came to be the only member of the public sitting in an NCGA hearing room full of military, law enforcement, and drone industry representatives, and being stared at by an angry NSA contractor. Yikes…

2007 – 2012: “We want a fully integrated environment.”

RQ-4/MQ-4 Global Hawk. U.S. Air Force photo by Bobbi Zapka. Public Domain Image courtesy Wikipedia.

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, it became clear to the Department of Defense that they would have to start planning for the day when most of those drones that they had come to depend on overseas, would have to come home. And they don’t have enough segregated, military airspace in the continental US to fly them all, for training, research, etc.

Pentagon working with FAA to open U.S. airspace to combat drones:

“With a growing fleet of combat drones in its arsenal, the Pentagon is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace to its robotic aircraft.”… “The stuff from Afghanistan is going to come back,” Steve Pennington, the Air Force’s director of ranges, bases and airspace, said at the conference. The Department of Defense “doesn’t want a segregated environment. We want a fully integrated environment.”

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