Just a day after he lost his long shot bid to be Speaker of the House, state Rep. Justin Burr forwarded the tweet show below to his followers from Young Conservatives. Very classy Rep. Burr.
There’s still a long way to go in transforming our criminal justice system into what it needs to be. Indeed, the lead editorial in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reminded us that the ongoing assault on North Carolina’s court system by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory is as absurd as it is counterproductive and shortsighted.
And yet, despite the ridiculous budget cuts that have resulted in all kinds of destructive service reductions, there is some promising news on the criminal justice front. Today’s lead editorial in the News & Observer explains:
In 2011, North Carolina’s prison population was growing. The probation system was failing because of lax supervision caused by understaffing. A majority of prison admissions were because of revoked probations. Treatment programs to help inmates addicted to drugs and suffering other behavioral problems were sparse. Prisons were always under construction to keep up with growing inmate populations.
Then Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and Republican lawmakers agreed to address the issues through the Justice Reinvestment Act. Now, the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments reports that the state is doing better than its expectations, the Associated Press reported.
Simply put. the state chilled out — at least a little — on the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” approach to criminal sentencing and put at least a few more resources into post-release supervision and services in an effort to cut down on recidivism. There is real reason to believe that such an approach will both produce better results for society and save money.
Not surprisingly, state efforts in this area are far from perfect and continue to be hamstrung by pandering politicians bent on showing how macho they are when it comes to crime. Many additional changes and services are needed. That said, as this morning’s editorial notes, the reports thus far on the Justice Reinvestment Act (click here for a thorough explanation from the good folks at the Carolina Justice Policy Center) make clear that the model shows real promise and deserves lots more effort and attention.
Let’s hope the humane, cost-effective and bipartisan reforms keep on coming.
Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement Friday saying with those gains North Carolina has now recovered all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession.
Economists acknowledge that the number of payroll jobs are above pre-recession level, but that’s only half of the story.
According to analyst John Quinterno of South By North Strategies, while North Carolina now has slightly more jobs than it did in December 2007 when the recession began, the state also has 28.4 percent more unemployed residents than it did almost seven years ago.
Here’s how Quinterno’s group explains the data:
Note that the return of North Carolina’s payroll size to the pre-recession level does not mean that the state’s labor market has recovered. Over the past 6.75 years, North Carolina has needed not only to replace the jobs lost during the recession, but also to add jobs to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population.
By one estimate, North Carolina still is 441,000 payroll jobs short of the number it should have added since late 2007 to accommodate the 11 percent rate of population growth that has occurred since then. At the current pace of net job growth, it would take another 72 months to fill that gap, holding all else equal.
“Although North Carolina has experienced job growth in 2014, the pace of growth has been modest,” noted Quinterno. “Over the first 10 months of the year, payroll employment in North Carolina expanded by 1.9 percent. The comparable rate in 2013 was 2 percent, and in 2012, the comparable rate was 1.6 percent. These rates are consistent with a sluggish recovery.”
In contrast to the payroll data, the household data recorded October pointed to a labor market that has yet to recover the ground lost during the recession. Last month, the statewide unemployment rate dipped to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent, while the number of unemployed individuals fell by 16,685 (-5.4 percent). At the same time, the number of employed North Carolinians rose (+17,508, +0.4 percent). And the size of the labor force essentially held steady at 4.6 million persons.
Over the year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, dropping to 6.7 percent from 7.5 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 54,551 persons (-15.7 percent). However, 47.8 percent of the decline was attributable to people who left the labor force entirely rather than to those who became employed. If those 26,104 leavers from the labor force were added back and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in October would have equaled 6.8 percent. Even if 50 percent of those individuals were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate would have equaled 6.6 percent.
What were state GOP lawmakers’ intentions when they enacted House Bill 589, one of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation?
That’s the question the groups challenging the law want answered by legislators they served with subpoenas last December, asking for emails, letters, reports and other records used when pushing for voting law changes in 2013.
Plenty has transpired since then. The voting cases pending in Winston-Salem ran through the federal courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of a stay of the new law’s provisions, pending the November elections.
Now though the court and the parties are digging in as a mid-summer 2015 trial date looms.
And in an order issued yesterday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi E. Peake told state lawmakers they could no longer hide behind a claim of legislative privilege and withhold certain categories of communications relevant to the claims asserted in the pending cases.
Among the documents sought are lawmakers’ communications with constituents, state agencies, lobbyists and political organizations regarding the reasons for voting law changes; studies and reports on voter fraud, race and ethnicity of voters; and analyses of costs associated with administering the new provisions.
State lawmakers’ files may be one of the few sources of proof for plaintiffs hoping to establish that those legislators had a discriminatory purpose in enacting House Bill 589 – a critical element in proving certain of plaintiffs’ constitutional claims and in obtaining future preclearance relief under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.
In her ruling, Peake held that communications between legislators and third parties regarding House Bill 589 are not privileged and must be disclosed. “Third parties” would include any person or group beyond lawmakers and their staff — constituents, state agencies, lobbyists and political organizations, for example.
Peake also ruled that communications between lawmakers and outside counsel before the lawsuits were filed on August 12, 2013 are not automatically privileged and may also be subject to disclosure. The state defendants must provide a log of any such communications being withheld as privileged, with sufficient detail for the parties and the court to assess whether they can be withheld or should be produced.
Communications between lawmakers and staff, however, remain privileged and need not be identified on a log or otherwise disclosed.
The state defendants still have the option of objecting to Peake’s order and asking for a review by the judge handling the cases, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder.
If that happens, it may be January before documents start arriving, according to Allison Riggs, an attorney from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice representing groups challenging the law.
“We’re pleased with the ruling,” Riggs said. “We’re eager to get this relevant discovery and build the case for trial next summer. The state needs to comply with the order and produce this discovery quickly.”
For more background on the dispute over documents in the voting cases, read here.
Read Judge Peake’s order here.
As our minds turn to food in preparation for Thanksgiving, there continue to be too many North Carolinians who struggle to bring food to the table each and every day. For these families, a lack of resources represents the greatest challenge in ensuring nutritious meals are available but another factor is access and proximity to stores that sell food.
North Carolina’s food deserts, or areas where access to food is made difficult by distance to store locations, can be found in both urban and rural settings. They affect more than 1.5 million North Carolinians and nearly 350 neighborhoods (or census tracts). For people living in a food desert, there is an association with poorer health outcomes such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as an increased likelihood to having difficulty putting food on the table.
Like community-eligibility that targets students in schools, there are effective place-based initiatives that can address hunger in North Carolina’s communities by reducing the number of food deserts. Some initiatives have already been piloted here in NC, others have been established in other states and still others are being developed by local community leaders in North Carolina right now.
Policies can support our state’s work to ensure that no child goes hungry and no family struggles to put food on the table. Above are just a few ideas that should be on the table in 2015 as policymakers work to address the challenges that North Carolinians face in accessing nutritious meals. The benefits to those families extend into the community and strengthen our economy’s capacity for job creation and growth.
A closer look at NC's #unemployment picture and its missing workers in today's Monday numbers - http://t.co/0IlIMXEhSV #ncga #ncpol #ncgov2 hours ago
Employment picture improves, but jobs deficit, sluggish growth endure http://t.co/niZfrFWtCT #ncga #ncpol #ncgov3 days ago