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Bill further limiting state agencies meets skepticism in N.C. House

Thursday’s meeting of the Select Committee on Administrative Procedure Laws.

N.C. House Bill 162, on which we reported back in August, may have a rough road to passage during next week’s special session of the General Assembly.

In Thursday’s meeting of the Select Committee on Administrative Procedure Laws, a number of House Republicans made it clear they’re nowhere near as enthusiastic about changes to the final bill as their colleagues in the Senate.

Broadly, the bill would curb the ability of state agencies to make rules and would get the General Assembly much more intimately involved in all sorts of regulation, seeing them take on responsibilities usually delegated to agencies that report to the Council of State.

Specifically – and of concern to a number of House lawmakers – it would prevent agencies from enacting any permanent rule that have a financial impact of $100 million or more, regardless of its financial benefits.

Rep. Sarah Stevens, vice-chair of the committee, said that could impact a lot of agencies and services people depend on every day.

Who will make the rules to implement the over $100 million things?” Stevens asked.  “Are we going to have to do that as a General Assembly on a daily basis?”

Stevens said that had the potential to bring things to a “grinding halt” as the Assembly struggled with the minutiae of rules and policies and could end up impacting programs like 911, Read to Achieve and immunizations.

Sen. Paul Newton, on hand at Thursday’s committee to defend Senate changes to the original bill and push for a House vote next week, had a simple response to that.

“I think there are a lot of mothers and fathers who would like us to take a look at immunizations,” Newton said, eliciting some muted snickers from the public gathered in the room.

Newton told the committee he believes that agencies in the state have too much power and are enforcing too many regulations that are burdensome to people and businesses.

“We believe that elected representatives should shoulder the burden and give an up or down vote on regulations,” Newton said.

Getting lawmakers more intimately involved in the making of regulations and how they’re implemented would cut down on the number of unnecessary regulations and could be handled through “common sense” discussions, Newton said.

More than a few of the assembled committee’s members – Republican and Democrat – seemed skeptical of that. Read more

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Charlotte activist who removed SC Confederate flag barred from Asheville school speech

Bree Newsome, the Charlotte activist who rose to national prominence in 2015 after scaling a 30-foot pole to remove a Confederate flag on the South Carolina statehouse grounds, was scheduled to speak to students at Asheville Middle School this week. But the event has been cancelled, with the school system citing a policy barring any speaker who “advocates unconstitutional or illegal acts or procedures.”

The community is rallying around Newsome and offering her alternative venues, according to a report from the Citizen-Times newspaper in Asheville.

From their story:

Carmen Ramos-Kennedy, the Asheville-Buncombe County NAACP president, said she was shocked to hear that Newsome’s speaking event was canceled because of her civil disobedience arrest. She said Newsome’s message is important, regardless of that.

“Bree brings a more in-depth analysis of what the Confederate flag stands for,” Ramos-Kennedy said. “She didn’t just climb up the pole to remove the flag; she knows what it means to people of color and to people of different religions.”

Asheville City Schools did not provide comment other than referring to their policy on visiting speakers that states: “In no instance shall a speaker who advocates unconstitutional or illegal acts or procedures be permitted to address students and no presentation or activities considered inconsistent with constitutional requirements or other applicable legal standards will be permitted.”

Ashley Thublin, communications director at Asheville City Schools, said the policy refers to Newsome’s brush with the law.

Ramos-Kennedy said, “What’s more American than civil disobedience?”

In the wake of the announcement, other schools and community groups in the area have stepped forward saying they would welcome Newsome if given the chance to host her.

Catherine McClain, head of Hanger Hall School for Girls, said she would be honored to have Newsome speak to her students.

“Middle school ages are a time when girls are defining who they are going to be and what kinds of citizens they are hoping to become,” McClain said.

McClain emphasized that she wants her students to have women to look up to who are passionate about their work, like Newsome, whom she said could help educate students about different sides of political issues facing minorities.

In response to whether or not someone with an arrest record should be allowed to speak to students, McClain said that should not lessen the value of what they have to say.

“There have been any number of people who have been arrested for being part of a protest, so I don’t think that negates the value of their message,” McClain said.

The school system’s policy would have prevented speeches by American civil rights luminaries like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and U.S. Rep. John Lewis – all of whom broke laws and were arrested as part of their activism.

Newsome took action in South Carolina days after the horrific mass shooting at a Charleston church in which white supremacist Dylan Roof killed nine and injured three.

South Carolina lawmakers later decided to removed the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds themselves.

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Richard Petty, NASCAR, money and patriotism

On Monday we looked at the prominent North Carolinians embroiled in the controversy over ongoing pro athlete protests against racial profiling and violence in policing.

NASCAR, we said, was an interesting case as no drivers or prominent owners had yet taken a knee or otherwise publicly protested.

But Dale Earnhardt Jr. – the sport’s most popular driver – did lend his support to the protests through a Tweet.

NASCAR team owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty spoke out against the protests, saying they would fire drivers who joined in.

“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country. Period,” Petty told the AP. “What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”

Childress threatened to get his drivers “a ride on a Greyhound bus” if they joined the protests.

With such strong words, it’s worth taking a look at the connection between Petty, Childress, NASCAR and patriotism.

Public demonstrations of patriotism aren’t just popular among the sport’s conservative fan base – they’re also big money.

As the Washington Post reported upon the release of a government oversight report, released by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, on the Department of Defense paying sports teams and leagues for patriotic displays:

The report expands on one that became public last May and resulted in changes to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, prohibiting the expenditures and calling on leagues and teams to donate the money to organizations that support the military, veterans and their families.

“What we take issue with,” wrote Flake, who, like McCain, is a Republican from Arizona, “is the average fan thinking teams are doing this on behalf of the military.”

NASCAR was the biggest recipient, getting $1,560,000 for fiscal year 2015. Included were personal appearances by Aric Almirola and Richard Petty, as well as 20 Richard Petty Driving Experience ride-alongs. The expenditures, according to the DOD, were “integral to its recruiting efforts.”

Petty, long a loyal Republican, appeared on stage at a Donald Trump campaign event in Greensboro during last year’s presidential campaign.

He also ran unsuccessfully for N.C. Secretary of State in 1996, being defeated by Democrat Elaine Marshall.

“If I had known I was going to lose I wouldn’t have run,” Petty famously said of his brief foray into statewide elective politics.

 

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North Carolina, sports and protest

Unless you were under a rock (and even if you don’t care about sports) you likely spent the weekend hearing about protests and reactions to protests in professional football, basketball, baseball, even protest (speculation) in NASCAR.

The Carolina Panthers took the field for the National Anthem, with no one on the team taking a knee. Only Julius Peppers remained in the locker room.

The NASCAR is pretty fascinating, despite no one from the sport having yet taken a knee or otherwise made a public, physical declaration of protest.

Former drivers and team owners Richard Petty and Richard Childress – both North Carolinians –  said they would fire anyone on their teams who joined in the protest.

But NASCAR is composed of owners, drivers, fans – many of them at odds politically and socially. It’s not monolithic.

Making that clear, Dale Earnhardt Jr. – a North Carolina native voted the most popular NASCAR driver for the last 14 consecutive years – lent his support to those who choose to peacefully protest and condemning those – like President Trump – who try to discourage them.

But it’s also unavoidably true that as an organization NASCAR’s attempts to prevent their brand from being conflated with racism have been…less than strenuous.

Back in 2015 NASCAR CEO and chairman Brian France called the Confederate flag it an “offensive symbol” and said, “we will go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of that flag.”

“As far as we can” ended up being a program whereby NASCAR politely asked people not to fly Confederate flags and encouraged people to trade those flags in for an American flag.

That flopped. They took no further action. Today it’s easy to find Confederate flags at just about any NASCAR event.

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UNC responds to “Silent Sam” lawsuit threat, students boycott

Attorneys for The University of North Carolina responded late Friday to a threatened federal lawsuit from students over “Silent Sam” – a Confederate monument on the Chapel Hill campus.

The university’s response  suggests students claiming that the monument creates a racially hostile learning environment take their complaint to the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office at UNC-Chapel Hill but says the university disagrees that they have a valid Civil Rights claim under Titles IV and VI.

Hampton Dellinger, the Durham attorney and former N.C. Deputy Attorney General working with students toward the complaint, penned a response of his own Friday:

“I am surprised that UNC is contesting the fact that Silent Sam creates a racially hostile environment. The case law is clear that even a single verbal or visual incident can cause a hostile environment and that Confederate symbols are evidence of racial harassment.  In light of these precedents, we believe the courts will conclude that a towering armed soldier dedicated to white supremacy and placed permanently in the middle of campus creates a hostile environment for some African American students. UNC claims to have contrary administrative guidance, but we have not seen it and the university has not identified it.  It is time for UNC to acknowledge federal law and focus on removal not resistance.”

Meanwhile, a separate group of students is organizing a boycott of UNC over “Silent Sam.” In a press release Friday, the group outlined their position:

“While we understand that UNC may not have unilateral authority to move Silent Sam, we do expect Chancellor Folt, as the leading representative of our UNC community, to vigorously advocate for the removal of Silent Sam and publicly acknowledge the statue’s connection to both white supremacy and racism. Every day that she continues not to do so, she is failing us.

The latest example of Chancellor Folt’s failure regarding Silent Sam is the fact that UNC did not petition the N.C. Historical Commission, prior to tomorrow’s meeting, for permission to remove Silent Sam from campus.UNC could have petitioned the Historical Commission, and should have done so. And Chancellor Folt should have been out front, leading the effort.

It is because of the failed leadership of Chancellor Folt and the UNC administration that we are urging all people of conscience to boycott UNC from now until October 18. By withdrawing our financial support, we can show the UNC administration that we are absolutely serious when we say we expect them to vigorously advocate for the immediate removal of that racist statue from our campus.”