Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: Ditch the “go-for-broke” tactics in negotiating state health plan

Be sure to check out the lead editorial from yesterday’s Fayetteville Observer. In it, the authors celebrate state Treasurer Dale Folwell’s decision to, finally, blink in his battle with health care providers over reimbursement rates in the state health plan.

As the Observer notes, Folwell had been playing games with state employee health coverage for much too long:

Sometimes giving up is the right thing to do.

After meeting stiff resistance from more than 100 of the state’s hospitals, state Treasurer Dale Folwell on Friday dropped his plan to change how the state reimburses hospitals for medical coverage of state employees….

The drama between the Republican official, state legislators and hospitals had put schoolteachers in middle. For several tense months, they were at the center of a larger political battle playing out in state government. It was a sadly familiar position for the women and men we trust with our most valuable resource, children. They were potentially facing, at the top of next year, steeply higher prices for medical coverage under the State Health Plan.

The editorial concludes that while there were legitimate issues to be discussed, Folwell would do well to ditch the “bull in the china shop” approach to future negotiations:

A year or so from now, we hope all parties are ready to sit down and chart a course toward a sustainable plan for the future.

We would also like to see this happen without the go-for-broke tactics that too often define negotiations in our state’s politics. Specifically, we weary of seeing schoolteachers continue to be used as a handy political football in the General Assembly’s Republicans vs. Democrats grudge match. You’ll recall they are also part of the current budget impasse between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-controlled legislature, where the two sides disagree over teacher pay raises.

Our teachers got a break this time. Let’s make that the rule, not the exception.

Th editorial might have also pointed out that if Folwell would get on board with Medicaid expansion and stop supporting massive GOP tax cuts for the wealthy, the state would have billions more dollars at its disposal to deal with issues like this in the future.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

Essay makes a great case for altering the Second Amendment

As multiple news outlets are reporting, America’s summer of gun madness continued this morning in Missouri, where a man walked into a Walmart wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a loaded rifle and a hundred rounds of ammunition. Mercifully, no one was injured and the man was arrested, but there can be little doubt that the result could have easily been another senseless tragedy.

How much longer can we allow this insanity to continue and still call ourselves a free society?

The obvious answer to this utterly crazy situation, says commentator and legal expert Elie Mystal in a recent essay in The Nation, is to launch a serious conversation about the Second Amendment, its original meaning, how it’s been perverted and, ultimately, how it needs to be changed. In the essay, Mystal makes a powerful argument that those who would support responsible gun regulation in our country need to stop shying away from the obvious truth that the Second Amendment (at least as it has come to be interpreted) is an albatross around the nation’s neck:

The Second Amendment is why we can’t go to school, or work, or a house of worship, or a nightclub, or a movie theater, or a music festival, or pretty much any public gathering without fear of getting shot to death. The Second Amendment is why you can’t be immediately arrested for openly carrying around an assault rifle in a public place, and why you can’t be immediately arrested for smuggling a hand-cannon in your gym shorts. The Second Amendment is how law enforcement justifies the need for military-grade armaments—to match the “firepower” they meet in the streets. The Second Amendment is why we have a generation of young people that is scarred or missing from gun violence. And the Second Amendment is why I had to tell my 6-year-old last night to act like Scaredy Squirrel and “play dead” if an “active shooter” storms his classroom, thereby mangling the whole moral of the books.

Mystal points out that it hasn’t always been this way. The Second Amendment was, for centuries, interpreted in a vastly saner fashion. Today, however, the amendment has been interpreted by conservative judges in such a way as to make reasonable gun control laws almost impossible. His proposed remedy for this situation: repeal and start over.

As long as this interpretation is the law of the land, effective gun regulation will be impossible. All serious efforts at gun regulation need to start from the premise that the government defines the parameters for “responsible” gun ownership, not the NRA, just like the state defines the parameters for responsible alcohol consumption, not Jose Cuervo.

That leads to only one logical conclusion: Repeal the Second Amendment and start over from presumption that you do not need a gun unless you are going off to war or going off to train for war.

Of course, Mystal acknowledges, this would be a super tall order. But, he says, we have to try. Here’s his powerful conclusion:

If we repeal the Second Amendment, Read more

Commentary

GOP leaders: Time for another election law rewrite, but not for gun safety legislation

It’s unclear when the endless 2019 state legislative session will ever end, but we’ve already been told by GOP leaders that there just isn’t enough time, by golly, to give adequate consideration to a pair of common sense gun safety proposals that have been buried in committee for six months.

Now, however, we learn there’s apparently adequate time to take up a new election law rewrite that wasn’t even unveiled until yesterday. As WRAL.com reports:

House leadership rolled out a wide-ranging election bill Thursday to tinker with early voting hours, let counties that use touchscreen voting machines keep doing so and tighten absentee ballot rules in response to last year’s 9th Congressional District scandal.

Among other things, Senate Bill 683 would start a pilot project to cover postage on absentee ballots so that voters wouldn’t have to buy stamps. There are other measures meant to keep campaigns from trying to collect absentee ballots en masse, including a rule requiring prohibiting outside groups from returning ballot request forms.

Those forms would also change every election so groups couldn’t simply photocopy old ones and submit fraudulent requests.

The 12-page bill has been under construction for some time, and it has a ways to go to become law. Rep.

David Lewis, R-Harnett, a House leader on election issues, said in a statement that he looks forward to working with the Senate to get the bill passed “in a timely manner.”

None of this is to say that there might not be some good ideas in the new election law bill. It is to say, however, that it remains a ridiculous and criminally negligent excuse to claim that there isn’t adequate time to consider the gun safety proposals. Heck, the 2019 legislative session may well continue for the rest of the year.

The bottom line: If there’s enough time to rewrite election laws, there’s more than enough time to respond to the national gun violence crisis. As more and more people across the state and nation have been saying to their elected officials in recent days: “Do something!”

News

Report documents racism that infected trials of NC death row inmates

Be sure to check reporter Jack Brook’s story from earlier this morning for The Marshall Project about North Carolina’s broken death penalty system that, despite years of inactivity as well as the passage and repeal of a law known as the Racial Justice Act, keeps scores of people on death row – many of whom were convicted in trials tainted by racism.

This is from the introduction to “Racism Tainted Their Trials. Should They Still Be Executed? North Carolina Supreme Court hearings raise broad questions of systemic bias in the state judicial system.”:

Seven years ago, a judge ruled that prosecutors improperly excluded black jurors in the murder trial that put Marcus Robinson on death row.

Now the North Carolina Supreme Court has to decide whether that evidence of racial bias—and similar findings of systemic bias in a handful of related cases—must be taken into account in death penalty appeals.

The hearings stem from the 2013 repeal of the Racial Justice Act, a law that briefly allowed death row inmates to seek life sentences without parole if they could prove that racial bias tainted jury selection in their trials.

After Democrats passed the law in 2009, Robinson and three others won life sentences without parole.

But when pressure from prosecutors and a campaign of fear-mongering led the Republican-controlled legislature to repeal the Racial Justice Act, Robinson and the other three prisoners returned to death row.

The impending hearings, scheduled for late August, raise broad questions about the equity of North Carolina’s judicial system, said Cassandra Stubbs, executive director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, which is representing Robinson. “The importance of fairness and the integrity of the court is really on the line.”

The story goes on to detail the way potential Black jurors were systematically excluded from serving on murder trial juries. It reports that:

Researchers analyzed the jury selection process in 173 murder trials between 1990 and 2010 in North Carolina where the defendant ended up on death row. They found that prosecutors used peremptory challenges to remove qualified black jurors at twice the rate that they removed non-black jurors.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments from the four defendants later this month. Click here to read the entire story.

Commentary

Editorial: Elected officials must stop the gun madness

This morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com gets the madness in our country from the last few days just about right.

Here’s the conclusion to “Mass shootings. The can happen here. Common sense action is needed now”:

It just as easily could have been revelers on Glenwood South in Raleigh; families at a Walmart in Charlotte or; Peach Festival attendees in Candor. It could have been the General Assembly where just last week a man nearly made it through security with a handgun and extra ammo.

It will be a few days before Republicans wake from their NRA-funded malaise. Then they’ll fall back on their favorite talking points:

  • The Constitution guarantees us the right to own guns.
  • Guns don’t kill people, it’s the person that uses the gun that kills people.

We support the 2nd Amendment — the right of Americans to be armed for basic self defense and sporting (hunting and target shooting) activities. That’s what the Constitution intended.

But we oppose the notion that anyone needs or should possess weapons of mass destruction. They should be banned.

This is not a radical view. Walmart, Dicks Sporting Goods, L.L. Bean, Kroger and REI all have stopped selling these weapons – as well as even air guns and toys that look like them. Walmart has even raised the age for gun and ammunition purchases from 18 to 21.

As for the mantra that it’s the people that do the shooting that are the problem, not their guns — that’s not the point.

The point is that powerful automatic weaponry can kill many people very quickly. There is no legal or moral reason that those weapons should be available….

North Carolina’s congressional delegation needs to be in the forefront of support for common-sense laws that will keep these weapons of mass destruction out of civilian hands and away from the public. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis need to abandon their partisan orthodoxy and back the common sense House-passed bill to require background checks for nearly all gun purchases or exchanges. This is a small, but important step in the correct direction.

The state legislature should show it’s as concerned with public safety as it is with currying favor with the NRA and fire arms manufacturers. Pass responsible legislation to require a background check BEFORE the purchase of rifles. Prohibit the sale and possession of large capacity ammunition magazines. There is no need for these – other than trouble. Require gun owners notify law enforcement when a gun is lost or stolen.

These are common sense steps that don’t infringe on anyone’s rights

Don’t let the anger go. It is time to get something done!