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SkvarlaToothbrushDENR Secretary John Skvarla grimaced his way through a February 19th press briefing on the Dan River coal ash spill. Only as he walked smartly away from a clamoring press corps, which was chagrined at the briefing’s premature cessation, did he crack a smile, followed by a smirking Tom Reeder, his Water Quality Man Friday. They had promised a press conference that would last as long as there were questions to be asked, but Michael Biesecker of the Associated Press had apparently asked one too many.

A disconsolate Skvarla famously urged his besieged staff to “smile, be happy, have fun and enjoy the process – because if we can’t do that we’re all doing the wrong thing”. He even urged them by email to include it as a measurable goal in their Employee Performance Plans. By any public measure Skvarla is failing miserably in this category, though to be fair he and other political appointees may sit around privately laughing at the sorry state of North Carolina’s eroding environmental protections.
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Former state representative Stephen LaRoque appeared in federal court in Raleigh last week to face charges of theft and money laundering. Pending trial in Greenville at a later date LaRoque was released on an unsecured bond and restricted to travel within the 44 counties of the Eastern District of North Carolina. That has not stopped another case involving LaRoque from making it all the way to the Supreme Court in Washington DC. The spotlight will be on voter suppression, namely the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, not LaRoque, though LaRoque’s name and statements appear in documents submitted to the court, including statements referring to his status as a state legislator.
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Attend any legislative meeting at the NC General Assembly related to immigration or documentation of identity and you’ll likely find James Johnson in the front row, shoulder to shoulder with Ron Woodard of NC LISTEN and/or William Gheen of ALIPAC. Johnson, an advocate of Arizona style immigration controls, is President/Founder of North Carolinians For Immigration Reform & Enforcement (NCFIRE). Described variously as a non-profit organization, accepting tax deductible donations, and specifically as a 501(c)3 organization*, NCFIRE is curiously MIA when it comes to documentation of its own identity.
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Full video of the “pro-discrimination” press conference yesterday.

As Rob Schofield said in an earlier post:

Disclaimer: Policy Watch is not responsible for any damage you may inflict upon your computer screen or any fragile items nearby as you watch/listen to this drivel.

Another entry in the category of “You can’t make this stuff up”. Wake School Board member John Tedesco thinks that abolition of the US Department of Education “would be great”. That’s what he said on Facebook Friday in response to a proposal to “shut down & eliminate the Fed Dept of Educ”. The absurdity of this suggestion is evident in a report of Rand Paul’s articulation of the same proposal in Kentucky.

Rand Paul’s idea to kill education agency would affect poor most

Programs on the chopping block would include Title I, which distributes funds to schools and districts with high numbers of low-income students; Pell Grants for low-income college students; and Head Start, an early childhood education program for lower-income children.

Dismantling the Department of Education also would be a herculean and politically unpopular task, said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.

Since 1979 when Jimmy Carter signed the law creating the US Department of Education, conservatives, starting with Ronald Reagan, have been bent on abolishing the cabinet agency. For years abolition of the department was part of the Republican Party platform. President George H W Bush declined to implement this plank in his party’s platform. His son George W Bush, with the bipartisan collaboration of John Boehner and Ted Kennedy, actually expanded the role and size of the US Department of Education with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Nationally candidates like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle took flak for calling for abolition of the US Department of Education yet NC Republicans Sue Myrick, Walter Jones, Howard Coble, and Richard Burr are known to support abolition of the Department. Among Republican candidates in NC in the 2010 election Ashley Woolard, Bill Randall, and BJ Lawson all supported abolition of the agency. Mike Beitler, Libertarian candidate for US Senate, also supported abolition of the agency. All this despite little public appetite for elimination of the Department of Education.

“It’s not realistic. If there is any official in Obama’s cabinet who has gotten more praise from The Wall Street Journal and conservative corners it is the secretary of education,” Hess said of Arne Duncan. “Republicans have spoken relatively kindly about what’s being done with education.”

The burdens of compliance with federal law would not evaporate with elimination of the US Department of Education. If anything the agency helps facilitates compliance with federal law and provides associated funds. Eschewing federal funding might release the yoke of compliance with some federal law. Much of that funding targets low achievement and low income students and is sorely needed. Yet, John Tedesco thinks that abolition of the US Department of Education “would be great”.