Environment, Trump Administration

Ex-DEQ chief Donald van der Vaart could lead EPA Council on Environmental Quality

Donald van der Vaart, former DEQ secretary, could lead the
EPA’s Council on Environmental Quality. (Photo: DEQ)

Donald van der Vaart, the controversial former NC DEQ secretary, is a leading candidate for a top EPA post, E&E News reported yesterday.

Van der Vaart, who long had his sights on an EPA job, has the support of conservatives who want to see him lead the agency’s Council on Environmental Quality.

CEQ wields power over several key environmental laws. It oversees  the implementation and interpretation of NEPA, the cornerstone of environmental protection. NEPA — the National Environmental Policy Act — requires federal agencies to assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of certain projects. For example, a new interstate would trigger an NEPA review, as would opening public lands to energy drilling.

CEQ also develops and recommends national policies to the president that promote the improvement of environmental quality.

E&E News quoted energy lobbyist Mike McKenna as saying, “Don is a well-thought-of name by people who matter in the administration.”

In what’s likely a promising sign to some conservatives, van der Vaart appears willing to review EPA’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, an anthology of climate science that forms the legal justification for regulating heat-trapping emissions. He argued that the finding should be constantly updated as science progresses — E&E News

Van der Vaart has a long history of opposing tighter environmental regulations. As DEQ Secretary, his vision for the department was to be more “business- and customer-friendly,” meaning that those interests often  trumped environmental protection. In November 2016, after Donald Trump was elected president, van der Vaart sent him a letter calling for the disbandment of the EPA — a view Trump also shared. Van der Vaart subsequently made the short list of nominees to be deputy administrator to Scott Pruitt, a position that later went to Andrew Wheeler, whom Pruitt knew from their time in Oklahoma. (Pruitt was attorney general; Wheeler worked for US Sen. Jim Inhofe.)

Van der Vaart, who is skeptical of humankind’s role in climate change, had worked in the Division of Air Quality. He then served under Gov. Pat McCrory for two years. A political appointee, van der Vaart then demoted himself back to an air quality post in order to protect himself from being fired when Roy Cooper became governor.

Van der Vaart resigned from DEQ last November after current Secretary Michael Regan placed him on investigative leave. Van der Vaart had co-written an opinion piece in a national environmental law journal supporting the rollback of a key air quality rule — which conflicted with the current administration’s view — and he had accepted a position on the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. After EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt essentially cleared the SAB decks of independent scientists, he filled it with industry representatives and conservative state regulators, like van der Vaart.

While he has the support of several key allies, van der Vaart has not officially been nominated. The Trump administration is still stinging from the failed nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White. The former head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, she had made several controversial comments about climate change and carbon dioxide. The Trump administration withdrew her nomination earlier this month.

Now van der Vaart could achieve one of his career goals. E&E News quoted him as saying, “It would be a thrill for somebody like me who’s been in this field for a long time.”

 

Education, News

After Florida school shooting, Speaker Moore says he will launch school safety committee

Following this week’s horrendous school shooting in Parkland, Fla., N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore says he will launch a committee tasked with making recommendations for improving school safety.

According to WRAL, Moore said he will announce the committee’s membership at a press conference next week in Shelby.

More from WRAL:

The bipartisan House Select Committee on School Safety will examine current safety standards and procedures in North Carolina’s elementary, middle and high schools and make recommendations on “statutory and non-statutory changes to ensure the highest level of safety for North Carolina students, teachers and other school personnel,” Joseph Kyzer said in an email to WRAL News.

The email came in response to questions WRAL News sent to members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state political leaders about what actions needed to be taken to limit the number of mass shootings in the U.S.

“The committee will seek information from experts in the fields of education, law enforcement, mental health and crisis management and consult with local governments and school systems on procedures that have proven effective in ensuring safety in our schools,” Kyzer said.

Last month, another state legislative committee reviewed improvements to school security that have taken place across the state in recent years and discussed technology that could upgrade security further.

Some lawmakers suggested allowing school personnel to carry concealed guns on campus. North Carolina law permits only law enforcement officers to carry firearms at schools. All other weapons must be inside locked vehicles.

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus

Federal lawmakers are under increasing pressure to take up gun control measures in Congress following Wednesday’s massacre. However, it’s been a week of mixed responses from North Carolina’s state and federal legislators.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Larry Pittman, a Cabarrus County Republican known for his often incendiary rhetoric, is taking some criticism after he reportedly suggested that schools should arm teachers. 

Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. 12 years of negligence. 1 million gallons of manure. A $64,000 fine. A Jones County hog farm is out of business — for now.

On a sultry day last September, Megan Stilley arrived at Lanier Farms, a large swine operation in rural Jones County. An environmental specialist with the state’s Division of Water Resources, Stilley investigates complaints of illegal spills and other environmental violations. The people responsible are rarely glad to see her.

Shortly before noon, Doug Lanier and two of his farmhands met Stilley at the site. He was upset that news of his farm’s illegal discharge the day prior into the Trent River — eventually determined to be 1 million gallons of feces-laden wastewater — had been posted on Facebook by a local TV station.

A terse verbal exchange ensued. “At that point,” Stilley later wrote in her inspection notes, “I felt uncomfortable being there alone.”[Read more…]

*** Bonus read:

2. Special update: Controversial bill on class size, pipeline fund, elections/ethics board merger heads to the Governor

An omnibus bill alleviating some of the headaches associated with North Carolina’s class size crisis easily passed the state House by a 104-12 margin Tuesday, despite continuing opposition from top Democrats on its controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Board of Elections provisions.

Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who helped to assemble last week’s compromise conference report on House Bill 90, said the bill gives districts “much requested” time to prepare for the state’s new K-3 class sizes by phasing in its caps on average and maximum class size over the next four years.

The legislation, which also creates a $61 million recurring funding allocation for arts, music and physical education teachers, comes after years of mounting pressure on the Republican-dominated General Assembly to either ease their 2016 class size mandate or provide additional funding to save those so-called “enhancement” teaching positions. [Read more…]

*** Bonus reads:

3. Keeping up with the…judicial maps – There are now more than there are Kardashians

Lawmakers late last week released two new versions of a judicial redistricting bill, making these the eighth and ninth maps released since last summer.

The two new maps, dubbed “Option B” and “Option C” are nearly identical with the only change made to district lines in Durham County.

The maps differ from “Option A,” the proposal released a little over two weeks ago, in all of the larger metropolitan counties and in the two districts encompassing Union, Anson, Richmond, Scotland and Robeson counties.

Lawmakers also added several district court judges, subtracted a few, and added one superior court judge in the new proposals. [Read more…]

4.Taking cynicism to new levels
The General Assembly’s latest mashup legislation is an example of government at its worst

In the complex world of modern politics, it’s easy to imagine scenarios in which difficult compromises must be made. Sometimes, the circumstances are such that there simply isn’t any way for elected leaders to proceed without making multiple accommodations to multiple parties.

Hence, among other things, the distasteful but sometimes necessary phenomenon of the so-called “Christmas Tree” bill that is packed with all kinds of disparate provisions that have only one thing in common: they’re necessary to secure the votes of enough lawmakers to get essential underlying provisions passed into law. Such bills may often go too far and be fraught with problems, but at least they’re typically driven by a spirit of pragmatism and negotiation. [Read more…]

*** Bonus commentary:

5. Legislators hope to find a compromise and a new home for UNC’s controversial Confederate statue

Students, faculty and staff at UNC continue to protest the Chapel Hill campus’ Confederate monument, “Silent Sam.” The North Carolina Historical Commission continues to grapple with whether it can legally remove the statue.

When the General Assembly reconvenes in mid-May, a group of Democratic state lawmakers say they’ll attempt what might be the impossible: a compromise solution.

“There certainly are not the votes in the General Assembly to remove it from campus,” said N.C. Rep. Verla Insko (D-Orange). “We’re working on a bill to move it inside somewhere – somewhere it can be safe and there won’t be the confrontations over it.”

Insko suggests the campus’ Wilson Library or Ackland Art Museum might be good locations –  places the statue could still be available to the public and a reminder of the history it represents, but not in its current place at the entrance to the campus. [Read more...]

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Which judges are double-bunked in the new maps? Here’s a list

Lawmakers have said they won’t be back until May to take up judicial redistricting, but dropped two new maps before adjourning a special session this week.

The maps this time were released with incumbency information, but not without errors. NC Policy Watch analyzed the information (again) and found that there are more judges double-bunked in the new proposals (Options B and C) than in the Option A map that was dropped two weeks prior.

You can read about the analyses here. The list of double-bunked judges in Options B and C in the district court and superior court maps can be found below. You can read all about the Option A maps here.

It should be noted, as before in other stories, “double-bunking” for the purposes of this data means that there are a smaller number of seats in a judicial district than there are current sitting judges. That means incumbent judges in those areas would either be forced to run against another incumbent in an election or face losing their seat if their term expires after the seats are filled.

District Court Double Bunkings - Option B - Feb 2018

There are 53 African American judges out of 269 total judges, according to Jan. 25 AOC info. There are 17 African American judges double-bunked in these proposed maps.
This information is based on the North Carolina voter registration database.
DistrictCounty(s)NameRaceGenderPartyTerm Expiration
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareMeader HarrisWhiteMaleRepublican2018
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareEula Reid African-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareAmber MalarneyWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareEdgar BarnesWhite MaleDemocrat2020
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareRobert Trivette WhiteMaleDemocrat2018
2Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell, HydeDarrell CaytonWhiteMaleUnaffiliated 2018
2Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell, HydeMichael PaulWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
2Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell, HydeRegina ParkerAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
2Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell, HydeChristopher McLendonWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
10DWakeKeith GregoryAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2018
10DWakeNed MangumWhiteMaleRepublican2018
10DWakeJefferson Glenn GriffinWhiteMaleRepublican2020
10DWakeMargaret EaglesWhiteFemale Democrat2018
10DWakeDebra SasserWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
10DWakeLori ChristianAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
10DWakeMonica BousmanWhiteFemaleDemocrat 2020
12CNew HanoverRobin Wicks RobinsonWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverJ. H. Corpening IIWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverMelinda Haynie CrouchWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
12CNew HanoverJeffery Evan NoeckerWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverRichard Russel DavisWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
15BCumberlandEdward PoneAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
15BCumberlandCheri Siler-MackAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
15BCumberlandTalmage BaggettWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
15BCumberlandLuis OliveraHispanicMaleRepublican2020
15DCumberlandApril M. SmithAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
15DCumberlandStephen StokesAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2018
15DCumberlandRobert Steihl IIIWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
16 Hoke, MooreJayrene R. ManessWhiteFemaleRepublican 2018
15DCumberlandDavid HastyWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
16 Hoke, MooreDon W. Creed Jr.WhiteMaleRepublican 2020
16 Hoke, MooreStephen Anthony BibeyWhiteMaleRepublican2018
16Hoke, MooreMichael A. StoneWhiteMaleRepublican2020
16 Hoke, MooreRegina M. JoeBlackFemaleDemocrat2018
18ADurhamJames T. HillWhiteMaleRepublican2018
18ADurhamDoretta L. WalkerAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
18ADurhamFrederick S. Battaglia JrWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
18CDurhamPatricia EvansAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
18CDurhamAmanda MarisWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
18CDurhamShamieka RhinehartAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22CGuilfordSusan R. BurchWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
22CGuilfordBetty BrownWhiteFemaleRepublican2020
22CGuilfordAngela Bullard FoxWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
22CGuilfordTonia CutchinAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordMark Timothy CummingsAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordAngela Cheryl FosterAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordLora C. CubbageAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordJonathan KreiderWhiteMaleRepublican2018
26AMecklenburgRonald L. ChapmanWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgRegan Anthony MillerAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2018
26AMecklenburgChristy T. MannWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgPaige B. McTheniaWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
30AForsythDavid Edward SipprellWhiteMaleRepublican2020
30AForsythLawrence J. FineWhiteMale Democrat2020
30AForsythGeorge A. BedsworthWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
30AForsythTheodoros KazakosWhiteMaleRepublican2018
30AForsythLaurie HutchinsWhiteFemaleRepublican2020
30AForsythCarrie VickeryWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
30AForsythVictoria RoemerWhiteFemaleRepublican2020

Superior Court Double Bunkings - Option B - Feb 2018

There are 18 African American judges out of 95 total judges, according to Jan. 25 AOC info. There are six African American judges double-bunked in these proposed maps.
This information is based on the North Carolina voter registration database.
DistrictCounty(s)NameRaceGenderPartyTerm Expiration
12CNew HanoverPhyllis GorhamAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2024
12CNew HanoverJay HockenburyWhiteMaleRepublican2018
15DCumberlandMary Ann TallyWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
15DCumberlandClaire HillWhiteFemaleUnaffiliated2018
15DCumberlandJames Ammons Jr.WhiteMaleUnaffiliated2018
18BDurhamElaine O'NealAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
18BDurhamMichael O’FoghludhaWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
19OrangeCarl FoxAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2022
19OrangeR. Allen BaddourWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellStanley AllenWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellEdwin WilsonWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellWilliam O. Smith IIIWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
22CGuilfordLindsay DavisWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
22CGuilfordSusan BrayWhiteFemaleUnaffiliated2020
24Union, Anson, Richmond, ScotlandChristopher BraggWhiteMaleRepublican2018
24Union, Anson, Richmond, ScotlandJeffery CarpenterWhiteMaleRepublican2024
24Union, Anson, Richmond, ScotlandRichard BrownWhiteMaleDemocrat2024
24Union, Anson, Richmond, ScotlandTanya WallaceWhiteFemaleDemocrat2024
26EMecklenburgLisa BellWhiteFemaleRepublican2022
26EMecklenburgDonnie HooverAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
26FMecklenburgCarla ArchieAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2022
26FMecklenburgKaren Eady-WilliamsAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020

District Court Double Bunkings - Option C - Feb 2018

There are 53 African American judges out of 269 total judges, according to Jan. 25 AOC info. There are 15 African American judges double-bunked in these proposed maps.
This information is based on the North Carolina voter registration database.
DistrictCounty(s)NameRaceGenderPartyTerm Expiration
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareMeader HarrisWhiteMaleRepublican2018
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareEula Reid African-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareAmber MalarneyWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareEdgar BarnesWhite MaleDemocrat2020
1Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, DareRobert Trivette WhiteMaleDemocrat2018
2Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell, HydeDarrell CaytonWhiteMaleUnaffiliated 2018
2Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell, HydeMichael PaulWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
2Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell, HydeRegina ParkerAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
2Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell, HydeChristopher McLendonWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
10DWakeKeith GregoryAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2018
10DWakeNed MangumWhiteMaleRepublican2018
10DWakeJefferson Glenn GriffinWhiteMaleRepublican2020
10DWakeMargaret EaglesWhiteFemale Democrat2018
10DWakeDebra SasserWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
10DWakeLori ChristianAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
10DWakeMonica BousmanWhiteFemaleDemocrat 2020
12CNew HanoverRobin Wicks RobinsonWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverJ. H. Corpening IIWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverMelinda Haynie CrouchWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
12CNew HanoverJeffery Evan NoeckerWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverRichard Russel DavisWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
15BCumberlandEdward PoneAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
15BCumberlandCheri Siler-MackAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
15BCumberlandTalmage BaggettWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
15BCumberlandLuis OliveraHispanicMaleRepublican2020
15DCumberlandApril M. SmithAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
15DCumberlandStephen StokesAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2018
15DCumberlandRobert Steihl IIIWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
16 Hoke, MooreJayrene R. ManessWhiteFemaleRepublican 2018
15DCumberlandDavid HastyWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
16 Hoke, MooreDon W. Creed Jr.WhiteMaleRepublican 2020
16 Hoke, MooreStephen Anthony BibeyWhiteMaleRepublican2018
16Hoke, MooreMichael A. StoneWhiteMaleRepublican2020
16 Hoke, MooreRegina M. JoeBlackFemaleDemocrat2018
18ADurhamJames T. HillWhiteMaleRepublican2018
18ADurhamDoretta L. WalkerAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
18ADurhamFrederick S. Battaglia JrWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
22CGuilfordSusan R. BurchWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
22CGuilfordBetty BrownWhiteFemaleRepublican2020
22CGuilfordAngela Bullard FoxWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
22CGuilfordTonia CutchinAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordMark Timothy CummingsAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordAngela Cheryl FosterAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordLora C. CubbageAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordJonathan KreiderWhiteMaleRepublican2018
26AMecklenburgRonald L. ChapmanWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgRegan Anthony MillerAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2018
26AMecklenburgChristy T. MannWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgPaige B. McTheniaWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
30AForsythDavid Edward SipprellWhiteMaleRepublican2020
30AForsythLawrence J. FineWhiteMale Democrat2020
30AForsythGeorge A. BedsworthWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
30AForsythTheodoros KazakosWhiteMaleRepublican2018
30AForsythLaurie HutchinsWhiteFemaleRepublican2020
30AForsythCarrie VickeryWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
30AForsythVictoria RoemerWhiteFemaleRepublican2020

Superior Court Double Bunkings - Option C - Feb 2018

There are 18 African American judges out of 95 total judges, according to Jan. 25 AOC info. There are six African American judges double-bunked in these proposed maps.
This information is based on the North Carolina voter registration database.
DistrictCounty(s)NameRaceGenderPartyTerm Expiration
12CNew HanoverPhyllis GorhamAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2024
12CNew HanoverJay HockenburyWhiteMaleRepublican2018
15DCumberlandMary Ann TallyWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
15DCumberlandClaire HillWhiteFemaleUnaffiliated2018
15DCumberlandJames Ammons Jr.WhiteMaleUnaffiliated2018
18CDurhamOrlando HudsonAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
18CDurhamMichael O’FoghludhaWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
19OrangeCarl FoxAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2022
19OrangeR. Allen BaddourWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellStanley AllenWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellEdwin WilsonWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellWilliam O. Smith IIIWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
22CGuilfordLindsay DavisWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
22CGuilfordSusan BrayWhiteFemaleUnaffiliated2020
24Union, Anson, Richmond, ScotlandChristopher BraggWhiteMaleRepublican2018
24Union, Anson, Richmond, ScotlandJeffery CarpenterWhiteMaleRepublican2024
24Union, Anson, Richmond, ScotlandRichard BrownWhiteMaleDemocrat2024
24Union, Anson, Richmond, ScotlandTanya WallaceWhiteFemaleDemocrat2024
26EMecklenburgLisa BellWhiteFemaleRepublican2022
26EMecklenburgDonnie HooverAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
26FMecklenburgCarla ArchieAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2022
26FMecklenburgKaren Eady-WilliamsAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
Commentary

Burr and Tillis stick to their irresponsible, NRA-funded lines in aftermath of Florida high school massacre

Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Thom Tillis

Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that North Carolina’s U.S. senators are two of the top four campaign funding recipients from the National Rifle Association. What a shock it is, therefore, to read in the remainder of the story that neither man is willing to say or do anything of substance to address the crisis that afflicts our nation as a result of the widespread easy availability of mass killing machines. Here is the most maddening section of the N&O story:

“On Thursday Burr declined to say whether he thinks assault style weapons like the AR-15 used in Wednesday’s shooting should be banned, or their magazines limited.

‘I’ll leave it up to investigators to finish their investigation,’ he said.

Pressed on whether gun control should at least be discussed, he said, ‘I’ll wait until they come out with their full report.’”

Give us a break, Dick. Wait for a full report? Such a statement is akin to refusing to take a stand on cigarettes until more studies come in about their health effects. What the hell else do we need to know? Did we need an investigator’s report to tell us that bazookas, flamethrowers and long range cannons shouldn’t be sold at Wal-Mart? Dick, our nation is already drenched in the blood of mass shootings committed by sick people with military-style assault weapons and your serial inaction on the matter has aided and abetted the crisis.

For his part, Tillis took his usual route of a political wimpdom by avoiding the issue and calling via a Tweet for people to “keep the victims, their families, first responders and the community in your thoughts and prayers.”

Sorry, Thom, that’s not going to cut it. North Carolinians already know how and when to pray. What they elected you to do is to make their lives better, safer and freer and one of the best ways to do that would be for you to unhook yourself from the narcotic of NRA cash and get serious about passing laws that would save lives and reduce the terror factor in our schools, movie theaters and other public places.

The good people at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence put it this way in an email distributed early this morning:

“We all saw the awful news. Yet another nearly unspeakable, yet highly preventable, mass killing. 17 people killed at a Florida high school by a murderer using an AR-15 military style assault rifle.

The Florida killer used an AR-15, the same type of military style assault weapon used repeatedly in mass shootings, including Sandy Hook School, Orlando and Las Vegas. These weapons do not belong in the hands of civilians….

Congress’s inaction is outrageous but we can’t stop pushing. Clearly, lives depend on it. And while of course our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones, taking time for thoughts and prayers has become a delay tactic. This has to stop.

Until Congress acts, it’s just a matter of time until the next assault weapon massacre. It is high time to start really honoring the American lives lost and preventing more carnage.

BAN MILITARY ASSAULT WEAPONS NOW!