Higher ed group blasts state Senate’s income tax constitutional amendment

In case you missed it, be sure to check out the excellent essay that appears on the on the website of the group Higher Education Works regarding the North Carolina Senate’s dreadful proposal to enact a constitutional amendment capping the state income tax. As the essay notes, the proposal would usher in “government by auto-pilot” that would likely prove disastrous to our already damaged colleges and universities:


The General Assembly’s war on sustainable energy continues

windfarmIn case you missed it — or have simply become numb to the repeated actions in this vein — it’s worth noting that the North Carolina Senate took yet another ill-advised step to undermine the move to sustainable energy yesterday.

This statement was distributed last night by the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club:

Senate Bill Blows Against Wind Industry: Measure Would Undercut Planned Wind Energy Projects in North Carolina

This evening the NC Senate gave final approval to H 763, a measure that would give more than one state agency the ability to deny permits for new wind energy projects. The bill adds several new layers of regulation to potential applicants for wind farm permits to legislation adopted in 2013. The NC Department of Environmental Quality already has the ability to deny permits for wind development.  Wind developers must also separately secure clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The measure now goes to the House for a concurrence vote.

H 763 defers to maps apparently prepared at the request of the state’s Military Affairs Commission, which is housed in the Department of Commerce; not the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs.  It appears that a report on the process and protocol by which the maps were developed was never presented to a legislative committee.  It’s also unclear if there is a publicly available report on the development of the report, including the charge given to the private firm that developed the maps.

After the Senate’s vote, Melissa Dickerson, Coastal Coordinator for the NC Sierra Club issued the following statement:

“We don’t need to look any further than the Atlantic Wind project in northeastern NC to see that wind farms and the military can come to agreement on how to coexist.  It’s disappointing that the Senate seems to think we have to choose.  With tonight’s vote, the Senate appears to seek an immediate halt any new wind farms in eastern NC, despite the apparent economic and environmental benefits to rural counties.”

“Communities in eastern North Carolina should be able to attract investment from the wind industry through the comprehensive permitting process adopted by the legislature in 2013.  That process requires input from the military.  The proposed legislation adds unnecessary complexity and uncertainty for businesses navigating the wind permitting process.”

“North Carolina is a national leader in clean energy development.  Our onshore and offshore wind resources have the potential to ensure that we can responsibly meet our energy needs without creating more coal ash or air pollution.”

Meanwhile, check out this fine editorial on the same subject from this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer which explains why investment in wind energy ought to be a no-brainer.


Senate fails to curb gun violence; Burr, Tillis once again do the NRA’s bidding

Last night, the U.S. Senate failed for the umpteenth time to pass modest gun safety legislation. Sadly, both of North Carolina’s senators once again bowed to the pressure of the gun lobby.  In response, the good folks at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence issued the following statement:

NC Senators Vote Against Gun Background Checks, Keeping Terrorists from Buying Guns

On Monday, June 20, North Carolina’s two senators cast votes to help kill two amendments to reduce the dangers of gun violence.  Both Richard Burr and Tom Tillis voted against universal background checks for gun purchases and a measure to strictly limit guns sales to known terrorists.

“These were votes to keep the unacceptable status quo of gun laws,” said Becky Ceartas, director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence [NCGV].  “It’s shocking that these harmful votes were cast in the wake of the worst mass shooting of our history in Orlando and, adding to the outrage, they came almost one year to the day since of the killings in the Charleston church.”

“In casting these votes, our senators showed their true colors.  They chose not to put safety of our families first, pushing that aside to demonstrate their loyalty to the gun lobby,” Ceartas said.  She pointed out that the National Rifle Association has given Sen. Tom Tillis $4,418,012 and contributed $805,219 to Sen. Richard Burr.

“Action must be taken.  It’s now up to Speaker Paul Ryan and the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on similar amendments for background checks and bans on terrorists seeking to buy guns.”

The House is scheduled to take a Fourth of July break at the end of this week.  Ceartas called for Rep. Ryan “to do the right thing and have the House vote on these life-saving measures.  The representatives want to go home and see families and work their districts over the Fourth, but now of all times, votes on these life-or-death measures must be a first priority.”

Four proposed gun measures were voted down Monday along party lines for the most part.  Sen. Christopher Murphy offered the proposal on background checks, and Sen. Diane Feinstein sponsored the amendment curtailing gun sales to known terrorists.  The other two amendments were one by Sen. Charles Grassley to allow certain psychiatric patients to buy guns on the day they are released from mental institutions; it also would allow military veterans suffering from mental illnesses to buy guns.  And Sen. Jon Cornyn’s proposal was to allow a suspected terrorist to buy guns unless the U.S. Attorney General could prove in court that the person had committed, or was about to commit, an act of terrorism. In addition, the gun applicant would have had the right to contest the evidence against him in court.  The amendment would have required these things to be done within five business days.

Senators Burr and Tillis voted for the Grassley and Cornyn amendments. “Their votes,” said Ceartas, “were a sad attempt to try and fool the American public into believing they were doing something about gun violence.  They weren’t.  They acted in bad faith and we will not let this stand.”


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


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