Commentary

Editorial: Supreme Court Justice Newby is out of line with public support of HB2

Justice Paul Newby

Justice Paul Newby

In case you missed it the other day, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby (he of the controversial banjo ad from a few years back) appeared at a conservative Christian political rally recently that was quite arguably an inappropriate venue for sitting judge to appear, much less speak.

This morning’s lead editorial in the Fayettteville Observer rightfully criticizes Newby’s actions. This is from the editorial:

“We hear a lot about judicial activism these days, but we don’t often see it. In most cases, judges on the appellate level hear arguments, interpret the law and issue a ruling. They do their job, deciding how the Constitution and law apply to situations our Founders couldn’t possibly foresee….

But last week, we saw a rare deviation from that norm, a surprising revelation by a North Carolina Supreme Court judge who attended a Fayetteville rally supporting controversial House Bill 2, nicknamed the ‘bathroom bill.’

Justice Paul Newby was a guest speaker at the rally – ‘Heart & Soul: A Night of Prayer and Worship.’ What he had to say may haunt him in future cases before his court. While the 61-year-old justice, who is in his second term, didn’t specifically endorse HB2, he alluded to it, recounting meetings with pastors from California and Maine who said they are praying for North Carolina to uphold the law. He added: ‘Let me tell you as a judge, our religious liberties are hanging by a thread.’

The state Code of Judicial Conduct says judges ‘should abstain from public comment about the merits of a pending proceeding in any state or federal court dealing with a case or controversy arising in North Carolina.’ HB2 is subject of several cases and Newby’s comments came as a three-judge panel of the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was about to release a split decision upholding Rowan County commissioners’ right to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.

Judge Newby just tipped his hand forevermore. There may be some recusal requests and other problems in his future.”

This is not the first time, of course, that Newby has stepped over the line and espoused conservative religious views in a public, political setting. One hopes this editorial will cause him to stop and rethink these kinds of actions, but sadly, that seems unlikely.

Commentary

History professor: Gender identity issues, prejudice go way back in U.S. history

Recently, UNC Pembroke Professor of History, LGBTQ equality advocate and occasional NC Policy Watch contributor, Dr. Charles Beem, sent us a fascinating essay about an early American who wrestled with profound issues of gender identity and the fear and prejudice that came with living in a colonial community under such circumstances. Among other things, Beem’s essay reminds us that there is very little new under the sun — including the fear and discrimination that our modern society visits on transgender people and others who fail to fit into neat and easy gender categories.

A history lesson in gender politics: The story of “T” and HB2
By Dr. Charles Beem

One of the most maddening things about the passage of HB2 was the fact that the conservative legislators who passed it and the governor who signed it into law neither consulted nor reached out to the LGBTQ community. But, of course, why should they? Nestled in the ivory tower of their supermajority during the most contentious election year since 1968, the transgender community is the lowest of low hanging fruit for conservatives out to halt the expansion of LGBTQ rights, as their fathers a generation ago worked hard to halt the progress of racial equality. As America makes great strides towards embracing the LGBTQ community, religious freedom and bathroom bills expose the bunker mentality of the conservative movement as it sinks to new lows.

Among the allies who live under the rainbow flag, the pace of acceptance is uneven. Today, as an out gay man, when I tell people that I was born gay, they usually believe me. But the transgender community and others who reject traditional definitions of gender do not yet enjoy such a level of acceptance.

In light of this reality, perhaps our conservative legislators (and a lot of other North Carolinians) could benefit from learning the story of “T,” the first recorded white person in colonial America to wrestle with profound issues of gender identity. I use the qualifier “white” because many Native American societies had long understood sexual identities as something much more fluid, and much more reflective of the actual feelings and desires of the peoples of their communities.

But in the early seventeenth century in the north of England, a child was born who exhibited the genitalia of a female, and was christened Thomasina. But after Thomasina went through puberty, her anatomy and reproductive organs developed in an ambiguous way, suggesting that “she” was what we would today describe as intersex or, perhaps, gender nonconforming.

When Thomasina was twelve, she moved to London, where she lived with an aunt, becoming proficient in sewing and needlework as well as lacemaking. She had a brother who served in the English army. When he died, Thomasina cut off her hair, assumed the name Thomas, and became a soldier in his place. Why she did this is far from clear, but it is possible, that Thomasina, or Thomas, identified as a man. When he returned from war in France to Plymouth, a southwestern seaport, Thomas once again became Thomasina, presumably because she could get work as a seamstress.

But Thomasina soon reverted back to Thomas, booking passage on a ship to Virginia where he could presumably reinvent himself as a man. To pay for this excursion, Thomas signed a contract to work for seven years as an indentured servant.  When he got there, Thomas – let’s use the neutral name “T” – embarked upon a remarkable odyssey in which he both struggled and, at times, thrived as a person of fluid gender.

Of course, in a tiny, close knit, frontier community like this, where everybody knew each other’s business, there were few secrets. Like the conservative politicians of today who passed HB2, this colonial community also demanded gender identity certainty. Read more

Commentary

New report: Charter schools already receive more than their fair share of local funding

A new “must read” today from the NC Justice Center’s Education and Law Project:

New report finds that contrary to legislative debate, local spending in charters in fact exceeds traditional public schools

RALEIGH (September 20, 2016) – Despite political debate and support by charter school advocates surrounding “fair funding” of North Carolina charter schools, local spending in charter schools in fact exceeds that of traditional public schools, according to a new report from the NC Justice Center.

“‘Fair funding’ is certainly a worthy goal,” said Kris Nordstrom, an analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Education & Law Project and author of the report. “Charter schools are public schools, and North Carolina’s students deserve equal funding whether they attend a public charter school or a ‘traditional’ public school operated by a local school district. Luckily, ‘fair funding’ already exists.”

During the 2016 legislative session charter advocates pushed for legislation that would have required school districts to provide charter schools with a greater share of their local funds. Current law already requires school districts to share per pupil local funding with charter schools. In advocating for House Bill 539 – which would have expanded the types of local funds the school district would have been required to share with charter schools – some charter advocacy groups pushed claims that the state’s public charter schools get less than 75 cents for every dollar given to traditional public schools.

Yet analysis of local spending patterns from the Education & Law Project proves that charter schools already receive more than their fair share of local funding and that this argument is false. In terms of per student expenditures for FY 14-15, traditional schools spent $2,135 from local funds, while charter schools spent $2,350 per student from local funds. Local funds in charter schools exceed local funds in traditional schools by $215 per student, or by more than 10 percent.

Per student local funding provided to charter schools is based on the per student local funding from where the students in that charter school live, so inevitably there is variation in local spending from school-to-school. Yet even after adjusting for charter students’ district of residence, the report said, charters spent more local funds in FY 14-15 than traditional public schools. Additionally, the report found that if every student who lives in a given school district received the same local spending whether he or she attended a traditional public school or a charter, charter schools would have transferred just under $3 million to traditional public schools in FY 14-15.

“Charter schools already receive what most would describe as a fair share of local funding – there is no good reason for advocates to try and divert local funds from traditional public schools when charter schools already have access to more local funds,” Nordstrom said. “Efforts to improve funding for all of North Carolina’s public schools are more likely to yield additional funds for charter schools than are efforts pitting charters against traditional school districts.”

Read the full report at this link: http://www.ncjustice.org/?q=education/education-policy-perspectives-fair-funding-charter-schools-mission-accomplished

Commentary

Gasoline price gouging is back; get ready for the conservative think tanks to defend it

GasolineThe new, broken-pipeline-induced gasoline shortage that’s affecting North Carolina and other southeastern states this week is, of course, not unprecedented. As most will recall, such shortages have arisen before as the result of wars and international relations, natural disasters, weather and the ebbs and flows of the economy. Such events are, in other words, to be expected.

Let’s hope this episode is a brief one and that the gasoline sellers who have product on hand resist the temptation to take advantage of their fellow citizens through price gouging. Unfortunately, news reports indicate that many are giving in to that temptation. WNCT.com reports that “more than 400 consumers have filed complaints online or via a toll-free hotline to report potential gas price gouging to North Carolina’s Consumer Protection Division.” Attorney General Cooper says he’ll be going after the sellers who engage in price gouging and good for him. That’s the kind of basic consumer protection that citizens should expect from their government.

Unfortunately, if past performance is any indication, we can expect the denizens of the local right-wing “free market” think tanks to undermine those efforts by defending price gouging and even denying that such a thing exists. Both the John Locke Foundation and Pope-Civitas Institute have a long history of condemning anti-price gouging laws.

Here’s longtime Locker and current Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar Roy Cordato back in 2008 when another shortage afflicted the state after a hurricane:

“From the perspective of economic science, the concept of ‘price gouging’ or ‘extreme pricing’ or ‘unreasonable pricing has no meaning. In reality the main purpose of a price-gouging law is to punish sellers who might be pricing according to actual supply-and-demand conditions. If a seller is charging a price that is truly extreme, higher than buyers are willing to pay, he will make either no sales or fewer sales than he would ideally like to make given his inventory.”

In other words, as the Pope-Civitas staff argued that same year in an attack on Cooper entitled “There Is No Such Thing As Price Gouging”:

“1. It’s not the government’s gas station. Station owners should be able to charge anything they want.

2. Price reflects supply and demand. If the station owners kept the prices artificially low, they would have run out of gas more quickly. (This is, in fact, what happened under N.C.’s stupid ‘gouging’ laws.)”

There haven’t been many missives from the two groups on the subject in recent years, but in 2014, the Locke people highlighted Cordato being cited as a critic of anti-gouging laws in a News & Observer story on the subject. Let’s hope that the passage of time has provided the Pope groups an opportunity to rethink this particular aspect of the their extreme, market fundamentalist belief system.

Given, however, that yesterday’s Locke Foundation “Shaftsbury Society” luncheon was entitled “Markets Without Limits,” we’re not gettiing our hopes up too high.

Commentary, News

BREAKING: Charlotte’s Mayor Roberts nixes McCrory’s cynical HB2 “deal”

Mayor Jennifer RobertsMayor Jennifer Roberts of Charlotte continues to show herself to be a courageous and principled leader.

This is just in from the Charlotte Observer:

“Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said Monday morning the city ‘is not prepared’ to discuss repealing the ordinance that led to House Bill 2 at its meeting Monday night.

Legislative leaders had made dropping the Charlotte ordinance a condition for repealing HB2.

The ordinance extended anti-discrimination protection to the LGBT community and would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom or locker room of their gender identity.

‘The City of Charlotte continues its commitment to be a welcoming community that honors and respects all people,’ Roberts said in a statement. ‘We appreciate the state wanting to find a solution to the challenges we are facing and applaud the governor for recognizing the state should overturn HB2, which the state can do at any time without any action from the City of Charlotte.

‘We are not prepared to add this item to our agenda this evening, however, we urge the state to take action as soon as possible and encourage continued dialogue with the broader community.’”

Click here to read the rest of the story.