Commentary

This report explains why Neil Gorsuch shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court

With the Senate Judiciary Committee commencing hearings into Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee this morning, be sure to take at least a few minutes to review The Gorsuch Record, a damning in-depth report prepared by the nonpartisan legal advocacy group, the Alliance for Justice. The report puts it this way:

“Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly shown hostility toward the efforts of vulnerable populations to use the courts to protect their constitutional rights. He has, moreover, consistently downplayed constitutional abuses by government officials. And he has placed the rights of corporations over those of other Americans, weakened critical acts of Congress, and advocated for overturning long established legal doctrines that ensure the federal government can properly enforce protections for the American people.”

The report goes on to spell out dozens of areas in which Gorsuch will almost assuredly work and vote to take the nation backwards. These include:

  • The power of corporations,
  • Government illegality and overreach vis a vis individuals subjected to abuse,
  • Workers’ rights,
  • Voting rights (where he has praised the work of one of the nation’s leading voter suppression advocates and co-architect of NC”s Monster Voting Law”)
  • Civil rights and racial justice
  • Equal opportunity,
  • Consumer protection,
  • Reproductive freedom, including the right to an abortion and access to contraception,
  • The rights of children and workers with disabilities,
  • LGBTQ rights,
  • The rights of immigrants,
  • Money in politics,
  • Separation of church and state,
  • Environmental protection,
  • Criminal justice – including the rights of criminal defendants, the rights of prisoners, excessive police force, searches and seizures and criminal sentencing,
  • the rights of Native Americans, and
  • The right to die.

In each of these areas and others, the report shows Gorsuch’s record to be that of a man who will vote to uphold and extend Trumpism. The report concludes this way:

“While his resume may be objectively impressive, his ideology is disqualifying. Time and again, we found evidence of Judge Gorsuch’s ideological pursuit of legal outcomes that systematically denigrate the rights of everyday people. While this is never desirable, it is even more disturbing at a time when the rights and freedoms of so many communities face heightened threats on a daily basis.

…We believe that a thorough analysis will lead to the same conclusion we have reached: that Neil Gorsuch is the wrong choice for a position that demands its occupants embrace the philosophy that the Constitution protects all of us, not just the wealthy and powerful.”

In short, the Gorsuch nomination is quite arguably the most dangerous act that a very dangerous president has taken during his first months in office. Let’s hope the U.S. Senate is paying attention.

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

If you get a chance, be sure to check out the Saturday editorial in the Greensboro News & Record entitled “A judicious veto.” In it, the N&R rightfully praises Roy Cooper’s first veto as Governor (this one of legislation seeking to make District and Superior Court elections partisan).

“Gov. Roy Cooper delivered a well-aimed veto Thursday.

‘We need less politics in the courtroom, not more,’ he said in rejecting House Bill 100, which would require partisan elections for District and Superior Court judges. He added that, under the bill, ‘judges who have chosen to register as unaffiliated voters so as to avoid partisan politics now have a difficult path to getting on the ballot.’

Cooper should keep his veto stamp handy because several more efforts to politicize the courts are likely to reach his desk. The Republican legislature keeps trying to weaken the governor and make the courts more partisan.

Bills have recently passed the House to transfer the power to fill judicial vacancies from the governor to lawmakers and to reduce the N.C. Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12. None of these measures was recommended by the judicial branch.”

After detailing the problems with the other bills targeting the judiciary that the General Assembly is advancing, the editorial concludes this way:

“Over the past 15 years or so, North Carolina had moved away from partisan judicial elections. Now the legislature is working to restore party labels at all levels of the courts. Not only does that invite more politics into the courts, it puts truly nonpartisan candidates at a disadvantage. It makes no sense to discourage men and women who don’t want to be partisan politicians from serving in our courts.

The legislature has the power to make these changes, and override Cooper’s vetoes, but this is not how anyone should promote court reform. Where is the objective analysis of how courts can work more effectively, serve the public more fairly and see that justice is done more impartially?

None of these proposed changes seems designed to accomplish those objectives. On the contrary, they look more like maneuvers intended to give the legislature and political parties more power.

The judicial branch of government should be the least political. Cooper should veto every bill that threatens the integrity of the courts.”

Commentary

Editorial: Berger, Moore have things backwards with latest tax cut proposals

Senate leader Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore

As NC Budget and Tax Center Director Alexandra Sirota explained yesterday, the new tax cut proposal from the state Senate is precisely what North Carolina does not need right now. Senate leader Phil Berger has proposed slashing another billion dollars from state revenue. House Speaker Tim Moore has a more modest proposal, but it’s sure to be damaging to essential state structures and services too.

The new proposals have spurred the first of what are sure to be multiple critical editorials in the state’s major newspapers in today’s Fayetteville Observer. After noting the state’s huge and unmet needs in public education, the editorial (“Fix our problems before cutting taxes”) concludes this way:

“The state’s own bureaucracy has been heavily trimmed and many agencies don’t have sufficient staff to get the job done. Mental health care is almost a joke. Lawmakers debate how best to beat our rampant opioid addiction problem while we’re thousands of beds short of the treatment capacity we need to deal with the epidemic.

Many of our roads are a mess, in poor shape and unable to cope with growing volumes of traffic as our state’s population steadily rises. And our highway trust funds fall miles short of what’s needed to fix the problem, given cuts in gasoline tax rates, continuing low fuel prices and the steady rise in average fuel economy for the cars out on our roads.

Those issues and many more need to be addressed, but instead we’re hearing discussion of more tax cuts for this year and next. One bill in the Senate would cut the personal income tax from 5.499 percent to 5.35 percent and expand the amount of income that’s tax-exempt. It would cut corporate income taxes from 3 percent to 2.5 percent next year. Sponsors say that would increase North Carolina’s allure for business, even though there’s no good evidence that state tax rates influence corporate expansion decisions.

It looks to us like they’re trying to hitch the tax wagon to the wrong end of the horse. Let’s make sure we’re taking good care of our kids, our roads and other essential needs and then we can talk about how to give back what’s left over.”

Commentary, HB2

Crucial Conversation luncheon: HB2 on its one-year anniversary

NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

An expert panel discusses the state of North Carolina’s infamous discrimination law on its one-year anniversary

Click here to register

Amazingly, Thursday, March 23 marks the one-year anniversary of HB2 – the LGBTQ discrimination law that will forever be known by the name it received during a special one-day kangaroo session of the General Assembly.

When it passed, it seemed almost unbelievable that supposedly responsible state officials would take such harmful and poorly thought out ideas from the “back of the envelope” to state law in less than 12 hours. A year later, it seems downright surreal. Tragically, however, that’s what really happened and North Carolinians of all stripes have been paying the price ever since as the state has become a national and international pariah.

Today, despite the best efforts of the state’s new Governor, Roy Cooper, the law remains on the books and the damage to the state continues. So what now? Where do things stand? What’s next? When will this stain finally be removed?

Join us Thursday March 23 at 12:00 p.m. as we explore these questions and others with an expert panels that will include Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, Ames Simmons, Lobbyist and Director of Transgender Policy at Equality NC and Rick Glazier, Executive Director of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from this important leader on this controversial matter.

When: Thursday March 23, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 S. Salisbury St. in downtown Raleigh.

Space is limited – pre-registration 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

Another bitter HB2 reminder today as NCAA hoops tourney starts in South Carolina

NCAA logoSouth Carolina is a fine place with many fine people, but let’s be honest: North Carolina losing out to the Palmetto state on a regular basis in the economic development and major events worlds makes about as much sense as the Tar Heels losing on an annual basis to Clemson or the University of South Carolina in basketball. It’s an assault on the basic order of the universe and something even the folks in South Carolina don’t really expect to happen or seem to feel quite right about.

Amazingly, however, that’s what’s happening now as HB2 approaches its one-year anniversary. Today is another bitter reminder of our new reality as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — an event that’s as synonymous with North Carolina as any other state in the union — gets underway south of the border. Luke DeCock of Raleigh’s News & Observer explains:

“If any state knows how North Carolina feels right now, it’s right next door. South Carolina spent 14 years in NCAA limbo, prohibited from hosting NCAA neutral-site championships as long as the Confederate flag flew on the capital grounds. It came down in July 2015, less than a year before House Bill 2 put North Carolina in the same position.

In Greenville, S.C., where North Carolina and Duke will play this week instead of Greensboro, there’s a definite sense of opportunity, with North Carolina potentially excluded from six years of NCAA events unless HB2 is repealed in the next few days. There’s also sympathy.

‘I hate it for North Carolina,’ said Robin Wright, the senior sports manager at Visit Greenville SC. ‘I hate it for all you guys. I really do.’

But when the NBA pulled its All-Star Game out of Charlotte in July, Wright went ahead and blocked hotel rooms for this week, just in case the NCAA followed suit – which it did, two months later.

Wright’s foresight played a key role in Greenville landing the subregional when the NCAA moved it and six other 2016-17 neutral-site events out of North Carolina in September because of HB2, which prevents cities and counties from enacting anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The ACC quickly followed suit.

As repeal efforts stagnate, and as the NCAA’s April 18 date to announce championship sites in 2018-19 through 2021-22 looms – already postponed from December to give North Carolina more time – the possibility that North Carolina could be out of the NCAA and ACC picture for six years is increasingly likely, with events for 2017-18 likely to be yanked at or around the same time.”

DeCock goes on to explain that the South Carolina folks are now working hard, understandably, to capitalize on North Carolina’s self-inflicted wound by expanding their bids and to make the NCAA events they’ve already snatched big successes. He concludes this way:
“If Greenville, Furman and the Southern Conference pull this off with aplomb, and HB2 is still on the books on the other side of the border, it might be more than six years before the NCAA tournament returns to North Carolina.”
Meanwhile, Senator Phil Berger and the other HB2 true believers fiddle while their state’s image/brand burns around them.