Archive for North Carolina

During a recount here in November 2012, I was at the local Board of Elections when a T-party member flashed a handwritten sign at a young woman from Warren Wilson College: “You are a law breaker.” A redistricting error by the GOP-controlled legislature — a precinct line drawn down the middle of the campus — allowed a handful of students’ votes to decide control of the county commission in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Democrats held the majority by 17 votes.

So it was no real surprise to see this the other day:

The head of the College Republicans at one North Carolina college is determined to stop voter registration drives on her campus, whether they’re being sponsored by conservative or liberal groups.

According to MSNBC, Chairwoman Leigh Thomas of the High Point University College Republicans was caught on camera on Wednesday telling a conservative group that it could not register voters on campus because she wasn’t comfortable with it.

[...]

“I don’t approve of it whatsoever—on a campus like High Point University,” she said. ”I don’t want to have any voting registration happening on this campus, with students.”

During the 2012 recount, T-party members argued that students legally registered at their school should not have their votes counted. It didn’t matter what the law said. (The Board chair quoted it to them.) The T-party charged voter fraud (naturally) and argued, essentially, that the law should be what what they wanted it to be. Ironically, they would lose because the GOP’s high-paid mapmakers failed to safely sequester all of the campus in the liberal ghetto created for the city of Asheville, a.k.a. The Cesspool of Sin.

As the High Point University incident this week demonstrates, Republicans don’t want people voting. Paul Weyrich admitted as much in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” What they want to ensure is that only the right people vote.

So North Carolina holds its breath this weekend as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to enforce a stay on implementing two key provisions of North Carolina’s restrictive, new voting law.

In North Carolina, the Oct. 1 decision by a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals restores same-day registration for early voters and out-of-precinct voting in the upcoming election. The panel overturned a U.S. District Court decision that found implementing the controversial 2013 law would not cause “irreparable harm” to voters. Voting rights advocates requested a preliminary injunction blocking the law for this year’s election as the broader lawsuit on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s law will be tried next July.

In his job as N.C. Attorney General, Democrat Roy Cooper has asked the Supreme Court to block the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts oversees the Fourth Circuit and could rule any day.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Oct
02

Back to the elections board

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Local Boards of Elections in North Carolina were scrambling yesterday to rework election instruction documents after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order blocking enforcement of two provisions of the state’s new election law in this November’s election.

But for NC Governor Pat McCrory and Republican colleagues, that’s not the end of it:

The Republicans plan to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving questions about whether North Carolinians will be allowed to vote the same day that they register during the early voting period this year as well as whether provisional ballots cast outside a voter’s proper precinct will be counted.

The NAACP, the ACLU, and other groups have sued to have the law ruled unconstitutional. That case will not be heard until July. The photo identity card requirement in the law does not got into effect until 2016.

The Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) had been a 15-page voter ID bill winding its way through the GOP-controlled legislature last year. Then in June, the Shelby v. Holder decision by the U.S. Court set aside of two preclearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Winston-Salem’s Camel City Dispatch explains:

Once that happened, the North Carolina State Senate dumped in a laundry list of voter suppression provisions that ballooned HB 589 into a 57 page collection of the most restrictive voter suppression regulations since the Jim Crow era. All of this while at the same loosening campaign finance restrictions on politicians. Apparently the Republican Supermajority felt that the voters of North Carolina needed to be regulated, but for politicians to be kept under the government thumb was just too much.

Millions of voter guides have already gone out with information contradicted by yesterday’s court ruling. It’s going to be a wild ride.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
28

Funny, how that works

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Perhaps it is not just a coincidence or a quirk of American policy-making that the words “innovation” and “reform” lately seem to attach themselves to ideas that drive more public money, public infrastructure, and public control into the hands of private investors. Nor that this meme is driven by lobbyists for public-private partnerships (P3s) where corporations stand to rack up profits by privatizing the commons.

Whether it is turning over state prisons to for-profit Corrections Corporation of America or public education over to publicly traded K12 Inc., we are to believe that despite the scandals and poor outcomes, the private sector will always do a better job than big gummint. We hear the private sector is more “efficient” than efforts run by the people and for the people. But more efficient at what?

This last week, as we noted, ITR Concession Co, and its parent company, the Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie declared bankruptcy on its concession to operate the Indiana Toll Road. The 75-year deal fell apart after only eight.

But getting back to efficiency. Think maybe the Germans could do it better? Maybe not.

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Sep
23

A North Carolina Bridgegate?

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As corporate-carpetbagger friendly as the NCGOP has made North Carolina since taking control of the legislature in 2010, they keep surprising. This latest revelation Monday from North Carolina echoes the billion-dollar, Hudson Lights real estate deal thought connected to Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal. WCNC-Charlotte has video here.
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Sep
16

Astro-fracking North Carolina

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Courtesy of its GOP-led legislature, the great state of North Carolina is exploring fracking Triassic Basin shale deposits in the center of the state. Gov. Pat McCrory this summer lifted the moratorium on the practice in place since 2012. The bill he signed also made revealing the chemical components of fracking fluids a misdemeanor (an earlier draft made it a felony). A friend already has a T-shirt listing fracking chemicals on the back. The front reads, “This T-shirt is illegal in North Carolina.”

The Mining and Energy Commission is taking public comment on fracking in the state, naturally. Last week, they held their last public meeting in the mountains at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. About 550 people attended. Opponents, mostly, and a few astroturf fracking supporters.

Few pro-fracking supporters made themselves visible. People favoring the drilling technology were booed and hissed at during previous fracking hearings. There were some, however. Three or four from America’s Energy Forum and N.C. Energy Forum, groups that receive financial support from American Petroleum Institute. And there was Winston-Salem resident Christian Bradshaw, who said he made the three-hour trip to support “energy-creating jobs” for North Carolina.

According to news reports (and friends who were there), about 18 men arrived wearing “Shale Yes” T-shirts, but seemed unaware of what fracking is. At least one had come from a Winston-Salem homeless shelter because “he had been told it would help the environment.” As a friend described it, once the Army veteran realized he’d been duped, he couldn’t believe he’d sold out for a sandwich.


“The energy industry keeps claiming that there is support for fracking in WNC. What they fail to mention is that they have to bus the clueless ‘supporters’ in,” said Betsy Ashby, who helped organize Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking.

One of the men apologized to Ashby, saying “I didn’t know they were trying to do this to me.” Another indicated he had just done it for the money.

“They’re being exploited seven ways to Sunday,” Ashby told reporters.

Whether the issue is women’s health, school funding, Medicaid expansion, or preserving voting rights and the environment — the Moral Monday Movement’s fusion agenda — that’s pretty much how it goes. Among the tens of thousands of Moral Monday protesters, a thousand were willing to be arrested to oppose the NCGOP’s radical agenda. The Koch brothers, Art Pope, and the rest of the Midas cult have to buy support. Boy howdy, can they afford to. And even then, they are exploiting people.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo. h/t Ashevegas)

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Last night, FiveThirtyEight blog reported a marked shift in polling on the NC Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and NC House Speaker Thom Tillis.

In North Carolina, a Rasmussen Reports poll found Democrat Kay Hagan ahead of Republican Thom Tillis 45 percent to 39 percent. Tillis had led in the previous Rasmussen survey by 5 percentage points. Another North Carolina poll released Thursday, by SurveyUSA, gave Hagan a 3-point lead (46 percent to 43 percent).

Combined, the two polls move Hagan from a “45 percent underdog to a 61 percent percent favorite.” But there’s not much analysis on why.

Let’s speculate, shall we?

In part, Hagan has opened up a 21-point advantage over Tillis among women. The “war on women” message has taken such a bite out of the NCGOP that the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity feels the need to cut an ad to sell Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, to women way out in WNC. Thanks to Tim Moffitt, ladies, you’ll be glad to know you have “the power to determine your own destiny,” to invest and to keep more of your money away from Raleigh. Just don’t keep it in your pants. That’s one area Tillis, Tim, and their friends in Raleigh have made sure by law that you don’t control.

More and more, Tillis and close associates seem to be alienating their own base.

WidenI77 held a town hall meeting in Mooresville on Tuesday to explain how “Thom’s Tholl Road” on I-77 would work. The NCDOT is already signing agreements with a Spain-based contractor for the 50-year tolling contract I wrote about in the AC-T. WidenI77’s presentation above details many of the unknowns in the contract, raising concerns about cost and privacy as well as the fact that paying tolls to a foreign vendor for 50 years siphons vast sums of money out of the local economy. The tea party, libertarians, and GOP activists are increasingly unhappy about the prospect. So much so that it seems Tillis and his lieutenants are having to fan out to defend the deal before angry constituents.

After the town hall, Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, got an earful from Republican and independent attendees about corruption they suspect in the highway deal he’s backed along with Tillis. Ashevillians will remember Brawley as one of Moffitt’s allies on the legislative study to look into transferring the Asheville Water System to a regional authority. He was in the posse Moffitt brought with him to face angry parents at a May education rally at Roberson High School in Buncombe County. Brawley, Moffitt, and Nathan Ramsey, R-Buncombe, co-sponsored the bill to wrest control of Charlotte-Douglas airport from the city of Charlotte.

Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, is having to face a meeting of the Southern Wake Republican Club this coming Tuesday. Stam gets to rebut a presentation by NC Citizens Against Toll Roads that believes that legislative efforts to promote public-private partnerships “violates the state constitution, and delegates taxing authority” to unelected officials. They may mistrust government, but they mistrust a marriage between government and business even more.

Tolls and public-private partnerships (P3s) are the new funding model these politicians are promoting, not just for I-77 but for future highway expansion projects across North Carolina. And over objections from angry conservative businessmen, Republican officials, and party activists. Perhaps those are more reasons why Tillis’ senatorial prospects are headed south.

How much weight would Tim Moffitt, the former co-chair of the state’s House Select Committee on Public-Private Partnerships (2011), and Brawley (the other co-chair), and Tillis give to local objections when it is time to widen I-26?

(Barry Summers contributed much source material for this post.)

Categories : NC Senate race
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Sep
10

Math is hard

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TillisCaptureNorth Carolina’s Republican House Speaker, Thom Tillis, wants to be the state’s next U.S. senator. He’s finding it a tough sell. Tea party members and Republican small businessmen oppose Tillis for pushing for toll lanes on I-77 in his own district and elsewhere in the state. Then, someone anonymously slipped a provision into a must-pass budget bill that “allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events … or any place which is in ‘plain view’ of a law enforcement officer.” Privacy advocates from left to right cried foul.

Next, Tillis was been pilloried for “mansplaining” both in his debate with incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan and in a TV ad where he uses “simple math” (just numbers on a white board) to show how math is lost on Hagan. The Tillis ad spotlights the average 7% raise he claims state teachers received under his leadership (only after the loud public outcry over Republican education cuts in an election year). Well, not so fast.

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figure as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

McCroryCapture

I guess math is hard for Pat and Thom.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
08

Whose Side Are You On?

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Warren on solving the student debt crisis:

Young people are– they’re not buying homes, they’re not starting small businesses. They’re struggling with the student loan debt. It’s bringing them down. It’s bringing their parents down. This is something that America sees, understands. We know which side families stand on and we know which side the millionaires and billionaires stand on. For me, it’s time to choose and that’s what I’ve learned about Washington. You make people choose, sometimes they make good choices.

Which side are you on? Warren is crystal clear.

Sen. Kay Hagan needs to answer that question definitively. Reacting to last week’s debate between Hagan and NC Speaker Thom Tillis, the News & Observer sees An empty race for the U.S. Senate: “This exorbitantly funded Senate contest has taken a page from Seinfeld. It is a race about nothing. With Seinfeld, it was funny. With Hagan-Tillis, it’s sad.”

Hagan has a large and vigorous field operation across the state which may carry her to a second term. But as “the most moderate senator,” she’s giving voters little to get off the couch and vote for. The N&O asks:

Is it too much to expect politicians at this level to engage in a bold debate about the issues that matter? Over a thousand Moral Monday protesters gave themselves up to arrest because they felt passionately about the state’s direction under its Republican leadership. Just Thursday, fast-food workers in North Carolina were arrested after they joined a national protest demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Can’t people seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate take the risk of taking a stand?

“Moderate” may be poll-tested and consultant-approved, but will it get Democrats out to vote in a mid-term election this November?

Hagan’s campaign could use a dash of hot sauce. Or whatever Breakfast of Champions Elizabeth Warren eats every morning.

Categories : NC Senate race
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Sep
05

Moffitt On Moffitt — On Tape

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Moffitt cribbed it:

ASHEVILLE – A company owned by state Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, lifted passages without attribution from other sources and used them in material for use on other legislators’ websites, a liberal Raleigh political group has found.

Progress North Carolina, the AC-T reports, says it found dozens of instances where anything from “a sentence or two” to “long paragraphs” were lifted without attribution. The irony here is what Moffitt told Barry Summers last Friday at last week’s CIBO meeting about his main focus areas in working with ALEC (on tape):

[P]robably my most pressing issue is intellectual property violations by foreign companies that really hurt North Carolina from the pharmaceutical/biotech standpoint.”

That’s right, nobody can violate the intellectual property rights of good, old Americans companies (like GSK, Bayer, or Novartis) except good, old Americans.

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Aug
30

Thom’s way or no highway

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Besides his woman problem, North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis has a toll problem. And a base problem.

Interstate 77 in Tillis’ district badly needs widening. But Thom and his ALEC buddies insist on installing High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes over objections from his party, local Republican lawmakers, and a conservative think tank in Raleigh. His local tea party calls the I-77 project Thom’s Tholl Road.

The GOP is expert at exploiting wedge issues to divide and conquer opponents. But here the wedge is intraparty. There is a split among the GOP’s right-wing populists, its libertarian ideologues, and it’s ALEC-friendly, crony corporatists. It seems HOT lanes have become a flash point. Free-marketeer libertarians consider that when government (We the People) provides any product or service on a not-for-profit basis, it’s another big-government crime against capitalism; they favor anything that gets government out of the way of private profit. Grassroots fiscal conservatives see schemes such as HOT lanes — contracted to foreign conglomerates, funded with federal loans, and with private profit margins backstopped with state tax dollars — as yet another example of crony capitalism screwing taxpayers. It is. And it’s just what the Koch brothers’ privateers want more of.

So how big a wedge is this? Behold the Weekly Standard from April, critiquing at length a 75-year, single-bidder HOT lanes concession in Virginia:

The arrangement is every capitalist’s dream: free land, developed with taxpayer money, for privatized profits and socialized losses.

Of course, in the Weekly Standard’s fever dream it’s not rent-seeking corporatists ramrodding privatization of America’s highways, but progressive ideologues (and libertarians) bent on discouraging a middle-class lifestyle they find “distasteful.”

Thom Tillis himself did not address the HOT lane issue at an appearance before a group of business leaders in Asheville Friday morning (timestamp 1:00:00). But as party activists and business-minded constituents have before, several times on Friday questioners asked state candidates about highway funding and the possibility of seeing of “dynamic tolling” on I-77 and I-26. These aren’t progressives and libertarians. They are Thom Tillis’ base voters. And they are uneasy.

Hard to tell, but when even conservative are worried about the impact ALEC’s designs might have for their small businesses, tolls just might be a sleeper issue for Republicans that so far the press has missed.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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