Commentary

Solar powerWill lawmakers bust North Carolina’s clean energy boom?

As has been reported recently by N.C. Policy Watch and other media outlets, some powerful North Carolina politicians and interest groups appear to have it in for solar power and other forms of sustainable energy.Recently, they helped advance legislation in both the House and the Senate that would freeze North Carolina’s “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard” (or “REPS”) – a law that requires a growing percentage of the state’s electricity load to be provided by renewable sources. Current law places the REPS requirement at 6%, but it is scheduled to grow to 10% in 2018 and 12.5% in 2021. Together with some other provisions, REPS is a big part of the reason North Carolina has one of the nation’s fastest growing solar energy industries. Unfortunately, all of this could change quickly if the “freeze” legislation continues to move forward.

Please join us as we explore this timely and critical issue with Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA).

Click here to register

Ivan has led the NCSEA since 2006 and helped make it a formidable force for advancing knowledge in this vitally important field. Under Ivan’s leadership, NCSEA convenes and advocates for a clean energy path that would result in net savings for all North Carolina ratepayers, maintain a financially stable and reliable utility, and ensure a globally and regionally competitive energy industry that benefits all of North Carolina.

When: Thursday, June 4, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

McCrory budgetIt’s been great to see Gov. McCrory veto two major pieces of legislation in as many days. His rejection of the absurd bill to re-institute marriage discrimination and the overly-broad proposal to limit free speech by employees who witness objectionable things in their workplaces (aka the “Ag Gag” bill)  constitutes a welcome departure from his normal posture vis a vis the General Assembly — i.e. serving mostly as a doormat.

That said, there are two obvious next steps for the Governor if he wants this little episode to amount to anything more than just a brief and quickly forgotten hiccup in the Raleigh policy battles.

First, he needs to veto the dangerous anti-abortion bill that lawmakers will send to him next week. The Guv promised during his 2012 campaign that he would approve no more restrictions on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion and there is simply no way to spin House Bill 465 as anything other than just that.

Second, he needs to take the next step and figure out a way to use the hint of a backbone he’s recently discovered as means of becoming the kind of leader who can effectively negotiate with the General Assembly before it ever gets to the point at which  he has to use the veto. The Guv is (or, at least, ought to be) the most visible and powerful Republican in North Carolina. That he has been so utterly inept in driving or even managing the agenda of a legislature controlled by members of his own party might just be unprecedented in recent state history. Until not that long ago, Gov. Jim Hunt exercised enormous control over a General Assembly of his party without the power to veto.

The bottom line: Two and a half years into his term, Pat McCrory has begun to learn how to crawl as Governor. If he wants to stand, walk upright and lead, he needs to do a lot more.

News

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory made a surprise appearance at the quarterly meeting of the state’s public-private economic development board Friday morning, asking for support for economic financial incentives and his $3 billion transportation and infrastructure bond package.

AGGAG-vetoHe also told board members, who are largely business people from around the state, that he’d made headway in showing the legislature that the public backed those proposals.

McCrory said that public support, which he referred to as “surveys,” may be set back after yesterday’s veto of a bill that would have permitted magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples and more vetoes he said were on the way.

“That [survey information] may change after yesterday’s veto and today’s veto and two other vetoes coming up,” McCrory said. “And I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”

Shortly after the morning meeting, McCrory’s office announced he vetoed the “ag-gag bill,” which had been opposed by animal-rights groups and AARP and would have penalized whistle-blowers who exposed wrongdoings at companies they work at.

When asked afterwards about his comments about future vetoes, McCrory would not expand on his comments.

Another controversial bill making its way through the legislature that would require a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, and require doctors to send patients’ ultrasounds to the state health agency.

A list of other bills on McCrory’s desk is here.

At Friday morning’s meeting, McCrory also had sharp criticism for his Republican colleagues in the legislature, where his bond proposal is getting a lukewarm reception.

Photo: WRAL.com

Photo: WRAL.com

McCrory wants to put the proposal, which would fund a myriad of transportation and state government projects around the state, before voters. The proposal needs legislative backing to get on the ballot.

“We have support in the legislature but it is very soft support,” McCrory said, adding that the legislature was busy with budget proposals. “Frankly, they’re scared of their own shadow.”

He also said that he would play “hardball” and wouldn’t be deterred by opposition from those in his political party.

“I’m not going to let three or four people in the legislature block progress in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “I don’t care what party they’re from.”

Friday morning’s quarterly meeting of the economic development meeting is a public meeting, but N.C. Policy Watch was the only media member, as well as the only member of the public, to attend the meeting at  Red Hat’s headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

The public-private partnership was established last year by the state legislature, and transferred the tourism and business recruitment division of the state Commerce Department to the quasi-public group. It’s largely funded with public money ($16 million) but is on the hook to raise $1.25 million from private funders in its first year.

The group has raised $830,000 so far from private contributors, with several other gifts promised and about $250,000 more to be raised by October, said John Lassiter, a Charlotte attorney and chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

Want to hear for yourself? McCrory’s comments about the legislature and upcoming vetoes begin at the 4:40 minute mark:

 

Note: This post has been changed from the original to more accurately reflect McCrory’s comments about upcoming vetoes. He referred to the vetoes in the context of how “surveys” from the public may change in light of the vetoes, not his relationship with the legislature as initially reported. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Commentary
Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

The nonpartisan (stop laughing!) inhabitants of the Pope Civitas Institute are having an interesting event next week. The group is hosting the Governor of Wisconsin and all-but-declared Presidential candidate Scott Walker for a fundraising lunch. You can be a “co-host” of the event for just five grand.

Setting aside the red flags raised by a nonpartisan nonprofit holding such a transparently political event, the question arises: Why Walker and not one of the other hard right candidates?

The answer to this question may be found in this post that appeared on Think Progress last month entitled “Why the Koch Brothers Want Scott Walker to be President.”

“Walker has enjoyed the Kochs’ enthusiastic support for much of his political career. Koch Industries was one of the largest contributors to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign, giving him $43,000, his largest out-of-state contribution. And Walker’s 2014 reelection campaign was one of the top recipients of Koch Industries cash. Tim Phillips, president of Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, has also heaped praise on Walker. ‘The difference Scott Walker has made with his policy achievements is as transformative as any governor anywhere in a generation,’ Phillips said in an interview.”

Of course, in fairness, Walker has yet to formally announce his candidacy. The Governor has told various media outlets that he’s too busy right now given the demands of his position as Governor and the need to finish work on his state’s 2016 budget… a task that he is apparently pursuing by traveling to North Carolina to hobnob with deep-pocketed conservatives a thousand miles from home in the middle of a weekday afternoon.

Commentary

As reported in this space on Tuesday, the UNC Board of Governors took action recently to eliminate or consolidate 46 degree programs across the system. The authors of an editorial in this morning’s edition of the Wilmington Star News smell an ideological agenda and are rightfully critical of the move:

“What’s notable, though, is the pattern of the cuts. Music, art and theater programs took big hits, as did programs in African-American studies, women’s studies and Hispanic studies. Programs to train foreign language teachers in French and German were axed at ECU, and math education and Latin were eliminated at UNC-Greensboro.

In some cases, the argument was that many of these programs had few students enrolled, so continuing to offer them wasted money. More generally, though, the Governors appear to be following the lead of Gov. Pat McCrory and his pal Art Pope – slashing back on classes that aren’t directly training students for a career.

McCrory, after all, famously remarked that anyone who wants to study gender issues should do so at a private university (and, incidentally, hope their daddies can pay the tuition).

The ultimate object of this seems to be to retract the UNC system into a network of pre-professional trade schools, supporting values that the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (funded by Art Pope’s family) identifies as ‘the morality of capitalism’ and ‘limits on government.’

That’s simply wrong. “Liberal education” doesn’t mean studying the collected works of Nancy Pelosi or Rachel Maddow; it refers to teaching students to think independently. That requires exposure to the fine arts, to alien points of view and to foreign cultures.

Cutting funds to train a future generation of high school foreign-language teachers is especially wrongheaded, at a time when we’re told we have to compete in a “global” economy. How can we do that if we don’t understand what the other person is saying?

Click here to read the entire editorial.