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Tickets are going fast for two upcoming NC Policy Watch events that you won’t want to miss.

First is next week’s election post mortem Crucial Conversation: “What happened? Why? What now?” featuring Chris Fitzsimon, Dan Blue III, Tom Jensen and Carol Teal. Here are the details:

When: Wednesday, November 19, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.
Where: The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601
Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.
Click here to register and learn more.

Second is our NC Policy Watch 10th anniversary celebration, which is co-sponsored by North Carolina State Senator Dan Blue, Capitol Broadcasting CEO Jim Goodmon and former Gov. Jim Hunt. Come hear from three of North Carolina’s most important leaders as our state comes to a crossroads after four years of damaging cuts to education and rolling back of progress it took a generation to make.

When: Monday, December 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Stockroom in downtown Raleigh.
(Click here for location information).
Commentary

060810_1509_Environment1.jpgThe good people at Environment North Carolina and their national allies released a powerful new report today that’s worth your time to check out. It’s called “Waterways Restored: The Clean Water Act’s Impact on 15 American Rivers, Lakes and Bays” and it does at least two extremely important things:

1)  It demonstrates the amazing success of a vitally important environmental protection law — the Clean Water Act, and

2) It makes the case for saving that law from the relentless attacks of corporate polluters and restoring it to its original intent of making all American waters safe for fishing and and swimming.

As the report explains, the Clean Water Act has, over the last 42 years, made enormous strides in cleaning up and preserving our nation’s waters. The report highlights 15 of these success stories, including North Carolina’s North Fork First Broad River, which has, thanks to the CWA, been been preserved as a pristine fishing venue and home to numerous endangered species. Other, more urban waterways like Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River and Boston Harbor have been brought back from the dead to become thriving and healthy sites as a result of the law.

Unfortunately and not surprisingly, major polluters continue to fight the law at every turn. Several years ago, they secured a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling that created some giant loopholes in the law and essentially excluded a huge number of the nation’s streams and waterways from protection. As a result, 56% of North Carolina’s rivers and streams are no longer protected by the law as they should be.

To correct this glaring gap in the law, the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA have proposed new rules to clarify that thousands of rivers and streams now excluded will be included in the law’s protections. The new report calls on these agencies to go ahead and finalize these new rules as quickly as possible.

Click here to read the report. The discussion of the North Fork First Broad River can be found on pages 25 and 26.

Commentary

This morning’s Winston-Salem Journal is on the mark in decrying the McCrory administration’s inexcusable and all-too-predictable secrecy in discussions surrounding oil and gas development along the North Carolina coast. As the editorial notes:

When it comes to North Carolina’s coast and processes that affect all of us, the McCrory administration needs to stop meeting behind closed doors.

State officials, along with officials from South Carolina and Virginia, met privately last week with federal regulators and groups funded by oil and gas companies to discuss plans for drilling off the Atlantic coast, The Associated Press reported. Reporters and members of environmental groups were excluded until the conclusion of the meeting at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh….

The rationale offered for the closed meeting was that organizers wanted “to avoid any potential for real or perceived conflicts of interest,” according to Donald van der Vaart, the energy policy adviser for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Re-sources.

But meeting with only parties that are amenable to profiting from offshore drilling creates just that impression….

If we do enter into offshore drilling, if our leaders can convince us it’s the right thing to do, it must be done responsibly and with adequate protective measures. The people of North Carolina must be included in the process from beginning to end.

Our coast is a natural treasure that supports a lucrative tourism industry. Before any drilling begins, we need to be sure that money-making treasure won’t be put at risk. But we’ll never be able to discern that through closed doors.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

 

Commentary

hagan-and-burrWith the midterm elections finally out of the way, lawmakers will return to Washington in the days ahead for what is commonly referred to as a “lame duck” session. Among many important piece of  business, are numerous judicial nominees that must get confirmed to fill vacancies on our nation’s federal courts and keep the wheels of justice moving.

Going into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and 34 nominees pending in the Senate. As we’ve detailed at length in this space previously, two of these vacancies are here in North Carolina and one has sat empty for eight years.

In such an environment, it is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote. If these judges are not confirmed, our federal courts will simply not be able adequately handle the numerous critical issues – from marriage equality to voting rights to health care to immigration – that affect all of us.

Happily, there are historical precedents for this kind of swift action: In the 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed.

Obviously, it is also important to work to confirm judges before the end of the year because the new Republican Senate it is likely to obstruct judicial nominees with the hope that a Republican president will be elected in 2016. Indeed, many expect that the GOP leadership will change the rules to slow judicial confirmations to a crawl and reinstitute obstruction by filibuster.

Instead of judges who side with corporate interests and whittle away at laws that protect our rights, the United States needs judges who support equality, protect access to health care, and are committed to safeguarding the Constitution. That’s why we need the Senate to act on judicial nominees before the end of the year.

The good people at the Center for American Progress have established a website — WhyCourtsmatter.org — that allows you to learn more about (and participate) in the effort to spur Senate action. Click here to learn more.

Commentary

Medicaid expansionICYMI, the Washington Post ran a powerful column over the weekend by man from Durham by the name of David Tedrow. In it, he explains how: a) the Affordable Care Act literally saved his life and b) the current threats of repeal by congressional Republicans leave him living in fear for his own survival.

As Tedrow puts it:

“The Obamacare subsidies saved my life. Now, I’m scared the Supreme Court is going to gut them.”

But, of course, Tedrow’s story is just one of thousands. And sadly, there are thousands more who will never get to tell their stories because North Carolina Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid.

In other words, the hard and plain truth at this point is this: The Affordable Care Act is saving lives each and every day of people who would have died for lack of health insurance, but thousands more could be saved if conservative lawmakers and Governor McCrory would halt their shameful blockade — not next year or somewhere down the road, but immediately. As Chris Fitzsimon noted yesterday in a story about McCrory’s current notion to call a special session on corporate business subsidies:

“Here’s a better idea. Listen to Rev. William Barber and call a special session to expand Medicaid instead. That will create thousands of jobs after all and even House Speaker and Senator-elect Thom Tillis now thinks it’s worth considering.”