Commentary, News

BREAKING: NC House overrides budget veto in surprise vote (Updated)

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland)

[Editor’s note: This is a developing story.] In a surprise move that Democratic members loudly decried as treachery, the North Carolina House of Representatives voted 55-9 this morning to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the state budget bill passed in June.

There are 120 members in the House and 56 weren’t yet in their seats yet this morning when the vote took place. Democratic lawmakers have stated that they were told by the House leadership that there would be no votes taken on the House floor today (though, it’s unclear whether there was any official notice to that effect) — a day that had been expected to be devoted to meetings of House and Senate Redistricting Committees.

At this point, no votes have been taken in the Senate, but it is has long been expected that Republicans may be able to secure the single Democratic vote they need in the 50-member body (their current majority stands at 29-21) to attain the required 3/5 majority to override the veto.

The Senate convened at 9:30 this morning, but then recessed until 4:00 p.m. you can listen to the proceedings by clicking here.

At 9:41, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue issued the following statement:

House Veto Erodes Trust, Reputation of General Assembly

“Having served as Speaker of the House, I understand the challenge in setting your personal agenda aside in order to address the people’s agenda. Today’s budget veto vote in the House did not serve the people’s agenda.

“Today’s veto override may have passed the bare minimum in House rules; it hardly passes the ethical rules of good government. This level of political deceit may have been limited to the House – but it reflects poorly on all of us.”

Policy Watch will have more updates on this developing story throughout the day.

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

In case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out the joint News & Observer/Charlotte Observer editorial entitled “What Republicans stole from North Carolina.” In the essay, the authors laud the recent court ruling striking down the state’s gerrymandered legislative maps, but blast the state’s GOP lawmakers for the years of treachery — treachery they describe as a “political crime” — that made it necessary.

Here’s the fine conclusion:

But the tilted maps didn’t just steal the integrity of elections. They stole what North Carolina used to be. Under a Republican super-majority, we became a state that once again jumped to discriminate against its residents, one that was no longer was a model for environmental programs and successes, one that occupied the headlines and late-night jokes that used to be reserved for other states.

Fair maps — and fairer elections — might have changed some of that.

We likely wouldn’t have had Amendment One, a law that made North Carolina the last state to discriminate against gays and lesbian by banning same-sex marriage.

We may not have had HB2, a harshly discriminatory law that cost the state its reputation along with hundreds of millions of dollars in economic investment.

We certainly wouldn’t have had a supermajority of Republicans regularly overreaching with laws that courts struck down, and breaking legislative norms and rules so that they could push through an agenda without opposition.

That arrogance was especially on display with gerrymandering. Not only did Republicans rig legislative and congressional maps, they did so brazenly and with the belief it was appropriate because Republicans should be leading North Carolina. It’s the kind of self-affirming blindness that comes when there aren’t enough people to tell you no.

There’s little reason to believe Republicans wouldn’t try to get it all back if they achieved a new supermajority in the General Assembly or a majority on the state Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on partisan gerrymandering. So while you should be angry about the injustice afflicted on our state, you also should be vigilant. The maps will be fairer this next election, but the stakes will be just as high.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary, News

Predatory payday lenders hit a new low

They’ll probably outdo themselves again soon. Heck, as you read this, you can bet the owners of some bottom-feeding, high interest loan company in eastern North Carolina are having a meeting in which they’re discussing how to market their “product” to hurricane victims.

That said, this story from recent edition of Education Week describes a scam that will be difficult to top. It reports that the payday lending industry — those fun people who make two week loans to their struggling fellow citizens at 200, 300 or 400% interest — are now pushing their rip-off on parents of kids heading back to school.

An Education Week analysis found dozens of posts on Facebook and Twitter targeting parents who might need a “back to school” loan. Some of these loans—which are personal loans and can be used for anything, not just school supplies—are considered predatory, experts say, with sky-high rates and hidden fees….

“Back to school expenses have you stressing?” one Facebook ad for the Tennessee-based company Advance Financial 24/7 read. “We can help.”

Clicking on the link in the ad brings people to an application page for flex loans, an open line of credit that allows borrowers to withdraw as much cash as they need up to their credit limit, and repay the loan at their own pace. But it’s an expensive line of credit—Advance Financial charges an annual percentage rate of 279.5 percent.

Another advertised solution to back-to-school expenses: payday loans, which are cash advances meant to be paid back on the borrower’s next payday. The loan servicer Lending Bear, which has branches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, posted on Facebook that payday loans can be an answer to “your child need[ing] school supplies.”

The article reports that industry representatives are mouthing the usual boilerplate platitudes about the loans being only for emergencies — blah, blah blah. But, of course, the truth is that the whole profitability of the “industry” is premised upon borrowers coming back (like cigarette smokers) over and over once they get hooked. This is from the Ed Week article:

“Each one [of these ads] just seemed like they were really taking advantage of susceptible people,” said C.J. Skender, a clinical professor of accounting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s business school who reviewed some of the back-to-school ads at the request of Education Week.

“Outrageous” interest rates in the triple digits make it exceedingly difficult for borrowers to get out of debt, he said.

Click here to read the entire article.

Commentary

Editorial spells out what legislature should do next week on redistricting

In case you missed it, the latest Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com does a fine job of explaining what the General Assembly should do next as it goes about the business of complying with a recent court order directing it to establish fair and un-gerrymandered legislative districts.

The following is from “Court’s message: No more hyper-gerrymandering, pass non-partisan redistricting”:

While the legislature remains in session, it would be wise and prudent for the legislature to take up and pass the legislation that’s been filed to create a nonpartisan system for drawing legislative and congressional election districts. The judges’ opinion already provides good guidance for the criteria to direct such an independent non-partisan commission to use.

Do this now. So after the 2020 elections – no matter if it is the Republicans or Democrats who control the General Assembly – a non-partisan process and criteria for establishing legislative and congressional district lines will already be in place.

After almost a decade of resistance, Senate leader Phil Berger said he’d “respect the court’s decision” He added it was time to “finally put this divisive battle behind us. Nearly a decade of relentless litigation has strained the legitimacy of this state’s institutions, and the relationship between its leaders, to the breaking point. It’s time to move on.”

In that spirit, Berger needs to lead the effort to put a non-partisan redistricting system into place now, before the current legislative session ends. The court has provided good criteria to develop legislation and laid out the need for openness and transparency in doing it. Get the job done.

Click here to read the entire editorial.