Commentary

Expert: Supreme Court about to issue the most important abortion ruling in a quarter century

What is about bills labeled “HB2”?  In Texas, state lawmakers approved an “HB2” a while back that would all but end the right to a safe, legal abortion for Texas women. Now the eight justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on that law. As Ian Millhiser of Think Progress explains, it will be a momentous ruling:

“The Texas law at issue in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the case current pending before the Supreme Court, is the culmination of this strategy by abortion opponents. Masterminded by Americans United for Life, a sophisticated group that drafts model legislation for state lawmakers eager to restrict access to abortion, Texas’ HB2 imposes expensive architectural and other requirements on abortion clinics and often-difficult-to-obtain credentialing requirements on abortion providers.

On the surface, HB2 appears to be a rather ordinary series of health regulations. It’s defenders argue that HB2’s requirement that abortion clinics comply with the costly standards Texas imposes on “ambulatory surgical centers,” for example, will make these facilities safer for women by bringing them into compliance with standards that are already imposed on many other facilities that perform surgeries.

If a court digs just a few inches below the surface, however, it rapidly becomes clear that the the law imposes potentially crippling burdens on abortion clinics, often with no apparent health benefits whatsoever. The ambulatory surgical center requirement, for example, applies even to clinics that perform no surgeries all at — many clinics only offer medication abortions, which are induced by pills taken orally.

Before HB2, Texas had 40 licensed abortion clinics. If the law takes full effect, a trial judge wrote that “only seven facilities and a potential eighth will exist in Texas that will not be prevented . . . from performing abortions.”

A decision upholding HB2 would likely endanger these remaining abortion clinics as well, because it is almost certain that states like Texas would try to push the envelope even further if they scored a big victory in the Supreme Court. Once the courts permit states to enact sham health laws whose real purpose is to restrict abortion, the only limit on such restrictions may be lawmakers’ ability to pass clever laws. A decision upholding HB2 could allow abortion opponents to turn packs of wolves loose in abortion clinics, so long as those wolves are dressed in sheep’s clothing.

Read more

Commentary

Carolina comeback or comedown? Don’t miss tomorrow’s Crucial Conversation luncheon

Some seats still remain for tomorrow’s special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Carolina comeback or comedown? A look at how we should measure success in the North Carolina economy

Featuring Professor Dirk Philipsen of Duke University

Register here

Is the North Carolina economy improving or stagnant? Are we in the midst of a “Carolina Comeback” as Governor McCrory and others allege or a prolonged and problematic malaise?

The answers to these questions depend in large part upon the measurements we use and how we use them. For many years, economists have simply referred to a nation or state’s gross domestic product or “GDP” as the chief indicator in such matters. Recently, however, experts have identified better ways to measure societal well-being. Join us as we hear from a pioneer in this field, Professor Dirk Philipsen.

About the speakers:

Professor Dirk PhilipsenDirk Philipsen is Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and a Duke Arts and Sciences Senior Research Scholar. His work and teaching are focused on sustainability and the history of capitalism, and his most recent research has focused on GDP as the dominant measure of success in U.S. and international economic affairs. His work also includes historical explorations of alternative measures for well-being.

Raised in Germany and educated in both Germany and the United States, Philipsen received a BA in economics (College for Economics, Berlin, 1982), an MA in American Studies (John F. Kennedy Institute, Free University Berlin, 1987) and a PhD in American Social and Economic History (Duke University, 1992). He has taught at Duke University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University. For 10 years, he served as Director of the Institute for the Study of Race Relations, which he founded in 1997, at Virginia State University. From 2001-2002, he served as one of the lead authors in generating a new shared governance constitution for Virginia State University.

Philipsen’s first book, We Were the People, chronicles the collapse of communism in East Germany and was published by Duke University Press. His latest work is published by Princeton University Press under the title The Little Big Number — How GDP Came to Rule the World, And What to Do About It.

Patrick McHughProfessor Philipsen will be joined by N.C. Budget & Tax Center Policy Analyst, Dr. Patrick McHugh. McHugh joined the Budget & Tax Center in December 2014 as its dedicated economic analyst and has quickly established himself as one of North Carolina’s most insightful commentators on state economic policy.

Don’t miss this very special event!

Register here

When: Tuesday, June 21, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Register here

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

This morning’s “must reads” on America’s gun violence crisis

Here are two hopeful reads to start your Friday regarding the United States’ absurd, NRA-constructed gun violence crisis:

#1 is this morning’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer“Let’s get logical about guns.” After pointing out that Democrats have made minor headway in pushing for a couple of small but important expansions of federal background check and anti-terror requirements (over NRA opposition) in the U.S. Senate, the the authors put it this way:

“The difference this week, of course, is the massacre of 49 people Sunday at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Although the Orlando shooter wasn’t currently on a watch list, his purchase of an assault-style weapon illustrates how easy it is for a lone-wolf ISIS sympathizer to get armed for a similar shooting spree.

Terrorist groups have noticed. “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms,” an Al Qaeda spokesman said in a 2011 recruitment video that encouraged the purchase of weapons at gun shows. “What are you waiting for?”

Lawmakers can make such purchases more difficult by giving the FBI the ability to prevent gun sales to people it believes might engage in terrorism. Yes, the government’s terror watch list is imperfect; some on it have no links to terrorism. That’s why at least one bill this week – from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein – allows those people to challenge their status quickly in federal court.

But let’s take the watch-list gun bill to the next logical step….

If lawmakers want to better protect Americans from gun massacres, they need to do more than just close the so-called terror gap with gun purchases.

They need to expand background checks to gun shows and online sales, so that people legally barred from gun ownership (such as felons and the mentally ill) can’t buy weapons.

They need to ban high-capacity magazines, as some states have already done.

Finally, they need to ban assault-style weapons, which have no useful purpose in civilian hands.

Americans agree with all this, and parts of it overwhelmingly. We want to be safe from those who intend to mow down innocent people. It doesn’t matter if those shooters are on a government watch list. It shouldn’t matter to lawmakers.”

#2 is this brief note from the good people at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence about this weekend’s “Stand-up Sabbath” event:

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the shootings that killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. On June 17th, 2015, a young white supremacist shot and killed nine grandmothers, fathers, sons and daughters during a Wednesday evening bible study session.

Less than a week ago, in the early hours of June 12th, a man walked into an LGBTQ-friendly night club in Orlando with an assault rifle and murdered 49 people, injuring even more. The nation is still absorbing the scale of the Orlando shootings. People of all walks of life are finding ways to grieve together, and calling on our leaders to act to prevent the next mass shooting.

This weekend, we are calling on faith communities to join in a Stand-Up Sabbath. Read more

Commentary

Don’t miss next Tuesday’s luncheon on the true state of North Carolina’s economy

Seats are going fast — don’t miss next Tuesday’s very special N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Carolina comeback or comedown? A look at how we should measure success in the North Carolina economy

Featuring Professor Dirk Philipsen of Duke University

Register here

Is the North Carolina economy improving or stagnant? Are we in the midst of a “Carolina Comeback” as Governor McCrory and others allege or a prolonged and problematic malaise?

The answers to these questions depend in large part upon the measurements we use and how we use them. For many years, economists have simply referred to a nation or state’s gross domestic product or “GDP” as the chief indicator in such matters. Recently, however, experts have identified better ways to measure societal well-being. Join us as we hear from a pioneer in this field, Professor Dirk Philipsen.

About the speakers:

Professor Dirk PhilipsenDirk Philipsen is Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and a Duke Arts and Sciences Senior Research Scholar. His work and teaching are focused on sustainability and the history of capitalism, and his most recent research has focused on GDP as the dominant measure of success in U.S. and international economic affairs. His work also includes historical explorations of alternative measures for well-being.

Raised in Germany and educated in both Germany and the United States, Philipsen received a BA in economics (College for Economics, Berlin, 1982), an MA in American Studies (John F. Kennedy Institute, Free University Berlin, 1987) and a PhD in American Social and Economic History (Duke University, 1992). He has taught at Duke University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University. For 10 years, he served as Director of the Institute for the Study of Race Relations, which he founded in 1997, at Virginia State University. From 2001-2002, he served as one of the lead authors in generating a new shared governance constitution for Virginia State University.

Philipsen’s first book, We Were the People, chronicles the collapse of communism in East Germany and was published by Duke University Press. His latest work is published by Princeton University Press under the title The Little Big Number — How GDP Came to Rule the World, And What to Do About It.

Patrick McHughProfessor Philipsen will be joined by N.C. Budget & Tax Center Policy Analyst, Dr. Patrick McHugh. McHugh joined the Budget & Tax Center in December 2014 as its dedicated economic analyst and has quickly established himself as one of North Carolina’s most insightful commentators on state economic policy.

Don’t miss this very special event!

Register here

When: Tuesday, June 21, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Register here

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Editorial: Senate’s latest income tax scheme is a “horrible idea”

The lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer puts it simply, plainly and accurately this morning: the state Senate’s new scheme to cap state income taxes — a plan the folks at Progress NC rightfully have labeled the “Millionaire Protection Act” — is a horrible idea. Here’s the N&O:

“State Senate Republicans are rather like kids perched on a garage rooftop, sheets tied around their necks, ready to jump off and fly. Mom warns them. Dad warns then. The astronaut down the street warns them.

On the way to the hospital, they blame Mom, Dad and the astronaut for not stopping them.

Sen. Bob Rucho, Senate Finance Committee chairman, is up on the rooftop and willing to tell his fellow senators, apparently, that the wind’s up and he’s ready. This week, in the wake of a fanciful and potentially disastrous proposal on income taxes, Rucho refused to allow a representative from the State Treasurer’s Office even to speak to his committee.

The idea, another instance of amateur hour at the General Assembly, comes from Republicans and would put to voters a constitutional amendment limiting the state income tax to 5.5 percent. On the surface, and that’s unfortunately the way too many voters would look at it, it sounds appealing, and Republicans cynically know that.

But State Treasurer Janet Cowell in a memo sought to get legislators to face some truths: Limiting the ability of lawmakers in the future to raise taxes above the limit would hamstring the state’s ability to cope with a crisis. What if there were a severe recession? A natural disaster? A need for investment in public education? A crisis with the state’s transportation system? Cowell’s office notes also that the state’s prized AAA credit rating, which allows it to borrow money at lower interest rates, could well be put at risk.

This is a horrible idea, and it’s been proven so. GOP lawmakers simply blow off the problems the state of Colorado has had since engaging in this foolishness. The state got in crisis, and voters had to suspend the tax cap for five years.

The cap would most help the wealthiest North Carolinians, no surprise since GOP lawmakers have been catering to the wealthy and to big business since they got into office. But it could be catastrophic for average North Carolinians.

Say there’s a limit. Then, say there’s a crisis that demands the state raise many millions in revenue. A couple of things would happen under a Republican legislature. One, public education and social programs would be cut; two, sales taxes, which hit the middle class and lower income people hardest, would be raised dramatically.

It’s a leap North Carolina shouldn’t take.”