Archive for NC Legislature


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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GREENSBORO — State Sen. Trudy Wade filed legislation Wednesday proposing the most significant restructuring of the City Council in more than 30 years.

Senate Bill 36 would shrink the size of the council, fundamentally change the role and powers of the mayor, lengthen council terms, and reduce the number of council members who are elected at-large.

A stroll down memory lane, ain’t it?

And wouldn’t you know, of the four Greensboro city council members who would have to run for a seat in the same district, three are Democrats, as is the mayor.

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They’re not always crazy

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Out here in the Laboratories of Democracy, ALEC is testing market-based solutions to problems other market-based policies created. But unless one of these solutions barrels right into you (ask Mike Stark), you might not know about it ahead of time.

You know when you hear a speech (or read a quote) by a not-as-crazy conservative and a phrase strikes your ear a little odd? After you baroo, the speech continues and you shrug it off as random weirdness. Something I learned during the George W. Bush administration was to pay attention to those odd phrases. They are usually either racial dog whistles or else a reference to some issue conservatives know about and the left needs to (unless you like getting blindsided). That happened again here recently.

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“A very unsubtle threat”

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The North Fork Watershed

The North Fork Watershed

Buncombe County’s legislative delegation (new and old) and city council met at the Civic Center for a breakfast this week scheduled to discuss the city’s draft legislative agenda. Henderson County’s Rep. Chuck McGrady attended as well. Since his GOP colleagues, Nathan Rep. Ramsey (NC-115) and Rep. Tim Moffitt (NC-116) lost their reelection bids this fall, the dynamic between Buncombe and Raleigh has shifted, although Democrats will still find themselves outnumbered and powerless. Just less so thanks to John Ager and Brian Turner.

On Asheville FM’s Making Progress Monday, Asheville city councilman, Cecil Bothwell commented on the future of the city’s lawsuit over control of the Asheville water system. McGrady had joined Moffitt and Ramsey in passing the bill stripping the city of control of its water system and transferring control to a regional commission. McGrady delivered what Bothwell describes as “a very unsubtle threat” [timestamp 37:50] to the city and the county’s new, all-Democrat House delegation, essentially, to play ball if they expect to get anything from the GOP-controlled legislature [timestamp 37:50]:

Depending on how that lawsuit occurs will really determine what happens next. But I will tell you — I want to very clear, I’ve talked to again Senator Apodaka about this — if the lawsuit is decided adverse to the position the General Assembly took last time, he and I do anticipate filing legislation to correct whatever the mistake might be. … I’m quite prepared to come back with a different approach to the same issue.

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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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Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Republicans tighten grip in Southern state legislatures

Just not here.

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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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TODAY: Mountain Moral Monday 2

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snake lineRise Above The Snake Line!


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

We look forward to seeing you there

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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).


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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