Commentary

HartsellThe unanimous decision by the State Board of Elections to turn over the investigation of Sen. Fletcher Hartsell’s campaign finances to state and federal prosecutors came after a three year probe by board officials.

The WRAL story about the case provides the reason why the case took so long and what the investigations are so rare.

As detailed by Strach, Hartsell’s reports had never been audited by the state board since he first ran, which left years and years of unusual expenditures unchallenged. The state board is supposed to audit all reports after every campaign cycle, but it does not have the manpower to do so, Strach said.

That’s right. The General Assembly has failed to provide the funding for the State Board of Elections to do the checks on politicians’ campaign finances that the law requires them to do.

And in case you are wondering, the budget the Senate is approving this week makes another two percent CUT in funding for the board.

That’s probably just a coincidence—state lawmakers starving the agency for funds that the public relies on to make sure the same politicians are not playing any games with the millions of dollars they raise for their campaigns.

Commentary

lotteryWhat a difference a year makes. Last session the state House passed a budget that relied on increased lottery advertising to raise money for a pay raise for teachers.

Senate leaders rightly panned the idea that soon fell apart after news that lottery officials had told House leaders that their revenue projections were unrealistic before the House budget passed.

But now it seems Senate leaders have reconsidered their opposition to increasing lottery advertising to raise more money from people at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Mark Binker with WRAL reports that two of the numerous policy provisions stuffed into the massive 504-page Senate budget would allow lottery officials to increase their advertising budget and authorize an online state lottery game, which is the last thing we need.

The two provisions combined are projected to raise more than $50 million a year, much of it from the poorest areas in North Carolina from families who can least afford to play.

The Senate was right last year. Raising money from the predatory lottery to pay for state investments was wrong.

nc-lotteryIt still is. We need an honest, fair, stable, and adequate revenue system, not one that increasingly relies on convincing vulnerable people to throw their money way on a one in a 100 million chance of striking it rich.

Commentary

The Senate budget is dominating the headlines today but the House is set to vote this afternoon on a sweeping gun bill opposed by law enforcement and the McCrory Administration that would allow many buyers of handguns to avoid background checks.

The bill passed the House Rules Committee two weeks ago by one vote thanks to the support of Chairman David Lewis. It phases out the state’s pistol permit system currently administered by sheriffs across the state who run background checks as part of issuing the permits.

Bill supporters say handgun buyers would still be subject to federal background checks but that system does not cover purchases from private sellers and that’s how roughly 40 percent of handguns are bought.

The North Carolina Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, has delivered petitions to legislative leaders signed by thousands of North Carolinians opposing the bill.

The bill also absurdly allows lawmakers and staff to carry guns in the Legislative Building.

Commentary

McCrory_budget305-aIt has been a rough couple of weeks for Governor Pat McCrory. First, the House and Senate overrode his vetoes of the so-called ag-gag bill and the legislation that allows magistrates to refuse to marry gay couples if they have a religious objection to marriage equality.

Then Monday Senate leaders rolled out a budget that refuses to restore the state historic tax credit program that McCrory has spent months promoting across the state. The budget also includes a plan to change how local sales tax revenue is distributed that McCrory vigorously opposes, and a proposal to reform Medicaid that McCrory’s appointees at DHHS don’t support.

And to add insult to injury, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told reporters that he does not see the need for a transportation bond issue—another top McCrory priority—preferring instead to stop budget transfers out of the highway fund to raise money for highway projects.

It is the latest reminder that the folks running the Senate believe they are in charge in North Carolina regardless of what the governor of their own party believes.

Justice for McCollum and Brown
Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Wednesday marks the 237th day that Governor Pat McCrory has refused to grant a pardon of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit.

The two men, both mentally disabled and struggling to pay their bills, need the pardon from McCrory to be eligible for financial compensation from the state for the years they were wrongly incarcerated. McCrory received the petition September 11 of last year.

NC Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey explains the case and explores the possible reasons for the absurd delay in justice for McCollum and Brown in an in-depth story on NC Policy Watch today.