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Reproductive rightsThe state Department of Health and Human Services will be holding a hearing this Friday morning on new proposed abortion provider regulations. As explained in this recent post by the good people at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, there is actually cause for optimism that the rules will not unduly burden women’s health. That said, anti-choice advocates are banging the drum to alter the proposed regs in a negative way and, as a result, advocates for women’s health will gather Friday on site in support of keeping the new regulations safe and sane.

This is from an alert sent out by the good people at Progress NC:

December 19: Put Women’s Health First!

The NC Department of Health and Human Services has proposed new regulations on abortion providers. The Department has included the input of women’s healthcare providers throughout the rulemaking process, and we need to stay vigilant and make sure that any new regulations put women’s health FIRST.

That’s why Planned Parenthood in NC, NARAL Pro-Choice NC, ACLU-NC, NC Women United, NC NOW, NC Women Matter and Progress NC need you to join us on Friday, December 19 at Dorothea Dix Campus, Brown Building, Room 104, 801 Biggs Drive, Raleigh, NC.

Click here for more information.

 

Commentary

K12, Inc.It may be 10 days before Christmas, but there are still a lot of worrisome/controversial policy decisions taking shape in the halls of state government this week. As noted in this morning’s Weekly Briefing, a state legislative committee will meet this Friday to recommend rolling back some important consumer protections in the mortgage lending industry.

Now, comes word that a special committee appointed by the State Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow to interview two private, for-profit companies seeking to run virtual charter schools in North Carolina — at least one of which (K12, Inc.) has been shown on numerous occasions to be a predatory failure. As Bloomberg Business Week reported last month:

“K12 Inc. (LRN) was heralded as the next revolution in schooling. Billionaire Michael Milken backed it, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised it. Now the online education pioneer is failing to live up to its promise.

Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.”

Of course, K12, Inc. isn’t an unknown to the State Board of Ed. To its credit, the Board has been holding the troubled company and its whole scam at bay for years. Unfortunately, K12, Inc. lobbyists prevailed upon the privatizers at the General Assembly to slip a provision into the state budget bill this past summer which directs the Board to approve two virtual charters as part of a “pilot” program. Now, low and behold, there are only two applicants for those slots.

Whether this means that the State Board will roll over and approve K-12, Inc. or show some backbone and tell the company and its buddies in the legislature to stuff it remains to be seen. Let’s hope for the latter eventuality.

Lest you have any doubts about the appropriateness of such a response, Read More

Commentary

taxcutBThere have been multiple stories in recent days detailing the destructive impact that conservative budget and tax policy is having on essential public structures and services in North Carolina. During a time in which most states are rebounding and expanding public investments, North Carolina continues to muddle along and scrimp by like one of Art Pope’s weathered, low-rent chain stores.

Just yesterday, Chris Fitzsimon reported on the disgraceful situation in the Rockingham County public schools (home to Senate leader Phil Berger) while Cedric Johnson highlighted the self-inflicted budget crisis afflicting our courts system.

Now, this morning, comes an excellent editorial that sums up the absurd situation and the driving force behind it: destructive and unnecessary tax cuts. As this morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer explains:

“The General Assembly’s Republican leaders appear remarkably calm about what is shaping up to be either a serious budget shortfall or an income tax shock for those who have not had enough state tax withheld.

Tax revenue flowing into the state is running about $190 million below projections following tax cuts that took effect in January. That is worrisome because state spending already is at a spartan level. There’s no slack for filling the budget hole with easy cuts. The state could dip into its rainy day fund (even though it’s not a rainy day), but that simply puts off the budget reckoning for a year.

State Rep. Skip Stam, a Wake County Republican and House speaker pro tem, said the budget shortfall isn’t much given the state’s $21.1 billion budget and the federal government’s spending on North Carolina’s Medicaid and transportation projects. He told Time Warner Cable News, ‘The difference is hardly even a rounding error.’ A rounding error? It seems like more than that to state agencies that are trying to meet the needs of a growing state. Their budgets have been tightened first by the Great Recession and then by Republicans taking control of the General Assembly in 2011.”

The editorial concludes this way:

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Commentary

There were vigils all across the country last night (and there will be more this weekend) for the victims of the Newtown tragedy on its second anniversary, including the one pictured at leftNCGV vigil that took place at the Judea Reform Congregation in Durham.

And while it was a somber affair, there was some good news to share. For instance:

Since Newtown, 99 laws strengthening gun regulations have been passed in 37 states. This includes new laws protecting domestic violence victims in eight states, California’s new “Gun Violence Restraining Order” law, Washington state’s new universal background checks ballot initiative and new comprehensive regulations in Massachusetts.

Evidence also continues to mount that gun safety laws work since states with stronger laws continue to have lower gun death rates than states with weaker laws.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, public opinion continues to grow in favor of stronger laws. Nine out of 10 Americans now support expanding background checks to cover private sales — this includes 80% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members.

The bottom line: Slowly but surely, the truth is sinking in to Americans that it’s possible (and indeed essential) to craft stronger, smarter laws that protect innocent people without infringing on gun ownership.  NRA bullies may dominate the political playing field in many places (like North Carolina) for the time being, but their days of dominance are numbered.

Commentary

UNCThere were lots of compelling responses delivered by the defenders of various UNC Centers at yesterday’s inquisition in Chapel Hill, but one of the best came from Dean Jack Boger of the UNC Law School.

This is from the account in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Boger pointed out that the law school’s Banking Institute was created to support the banking industry in North Carolina. ‘We don’t ask that center to consider socialism as an alternative or to talk about the dissolution of large banks,’ he said. Boger also pointed out that public health professors advocate against sugary drinks in the fight against obesity.”

Boger’s observation neatly highlighted the central absurdity of the ideological attack on the various UNC Centers launched by surrogates for right-wing financier/politico and wannabe UNC prez, Art Pope: Pope has already won. It is already the mission of a vast swath of the UNC system to support, defend, apologize for and train the future leaders of  North Carolina’s corporate business establishment. Read More