Commentary

McCrory: High maintenance trouble from start to finish

capturePat McCrory is starting to resemble that proverbial house guest who you semi-reluctantly invite to spend a night or two and then find yourself unable to evict from your spare bedroom: he takes up space, time and energy, contributes little to nothing to the household, is enamored of his own reflection and supposedly brilliant insights and is willfully blind to your cues that it’s time for him to hit the road.

The latest evidence of this tremendously frustrating reality can be seen in the outgoing governor’s futile and destructive decision to file a bevy of protests against local election results compiled by the people he appointed.

Earth to Pat McCrory: You lost the election. Yes, it was close, but not that close. The margin is over 5,000 votes and growing. It’s not going to turn around for you no matter how much you stomp your feet and/or hold your breath. After four years of weak, indecisive, ineffective and uninspiring performance in the state’s highest office, the least you can do is show just a tiny measure of class and dignity in your departure from Raleigh.

Unfortunately, by all appearances, this will not be the case. McCrory appears bent on clinging desperately to the job voters have uninvited from holding (and the all but nonexistent power and influence he wields therein) until the keys to the Governor’s Mansion are pried forcibly from his straining fingers.

In other words, McCrory is going out just like he came in and as he has served: as an ineffectual, high maintenance, low impact politician who sucks out far more positive energy from the polity that he contributes. Let’s hope that sometime very soon he finally, at last, wakes up and confronts and comes to terms with this reality.

It’s probably best, however, not to hold one’s breath.

Commentary

GOP efforts to block Cooper governorship looking more and more desperate

Governro-elect Roy Cooper

Governor-elect Cooper

It’s increasingly clear that Roy Cooper is the Governor-elect of North Carolina. It’s perhaps understandable that Gov. Pat McCrory and his supporters are frustrated at their narrow, but increasingly indisputable defeat and are trying desperately to manufacture excuses as to why things might, miraculously, turn McCrory’s way. Now, however, that we are a week and a day out from Election Day with absolutely no indication at all that the McCrory/GOP-appointed boards of elections around the state have done anything other than faithfully report the votes that were cast, it’s time to start wrapping things up and commence the transition.

What’s more as veteran politico Gary Pearce noted on his blog, Talking About Politics, this morning, efforts by the GOP to somehow block the will of the voters in the Governor’s race are looking and sounding more and more sketchy every day and, indeed, starting to smack of what Pearce rightfully terms a potential Republican coup d’etat. Let’s hope fervently that sane and responsible voices in conservative circles start to acknowledge the clear handwriting on the wall very soon and resist the temptation to take our state into a very dark and dangerous place. Given the GOP’s record of ends-justify-the-means voter suppression in recent years, however, Pearce’s worries seem sadly well-founded.

Commentary

NC highlighted in national story about last week’s “wildly successful” GOP voter suppression efforts

Think Progress has a sobering story this morning entitled “Republicans were wildly successful at suppressing voters in 2016: Three GOP-controlled states demonstrate the effectiveness of disenfranchising the opposition.” Needless to say, North Carolina is one of the three.

“Last week, the first election in 50 years without the full protection of the federal Voting Rights Act propelled Donald Trump to the White House.

Trump will assume the presidency because of the Electoral College’s influence?—?nearly a million more people cast ballots for Hillary Clinton as of November 15. The election was also marked by low turnout, with tens of millions of eligible voters choosing not to participate at all. Yet there has been relatively little discussion about the millions of people who were eligible to vote but could not do so because they faced an array of newly-enacted barriers to the ballot box.

Their systematic disenfranchisement was intentional and politically motivated. In the years leading up to 2016, Republican governors and state legislatures implemented new laws restricting when, where, and how people could vote?—?laws that disproportionately harmed students, the poor, and people of color. In several instances, lawmakers pushing such policies said explicitly that their goal was suppression of voters who favor the Democratic Party.

Three such states serve as case studies for the effectiveness of these voting restrictions: Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida.

All three elected staunchly conservative governors during President Obama’s terms. All three implemented voting restrictions that affect millions of people. President Obama won all three states in 2008, and won all but North Carolina in 2012, while Hillary Clinton lost all three of those states this year.

The story goes on to detail issues in each of the states. After exploring the North Carolina’s infamous Monster Voting Law, here’s how it sums up our section:

“Though some of the most extreme cuts were blocked by the state board of elections, many remained in place through the election. For example, Guilford County reduced the number of polling sites in the first week of early voting from 16 in 2012 to just 1 this year. A GOP memo issued at the end of the state’s early voting period celebrated the inevitable results of those cutbacks: African American turnout had dropped nearly nine percent.

In counties that slashed early voting hours and sites, voters also had to wait in lines several hours long to cast their ballots. A new Harvard study found that such long waits not only disenfranchise working-class voters who can’t afford to wait, but also discourages voters from participating in future elections.

Trump won the state by fewer than 200,000 votes, and the governor’s race remains too close to call.”

In short, mission accomplished for the NC GOP.

Commentary, News

NC Supreme Court authors highly questionable, Election Day power grab

Here’s a piece of troubling news that got buried (almost assuredly not by accident) last Tuesday when the public’s attention was elsewhere: the North Carolina Supreme Court took the extraordinary step of issuing a new rule on its motion to allow the Chief Justice to appoint temporary substitute justices in certain circumstances. Here’s the full text of the new Rule 29.1 of the N.C. Rules of Appellate procedure:

“In the event that an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court is recused or disqualified from participation in a specific matter, the Chief Justice may, when necessary to avoid the possibility of an evenly divided disposition, appoint a substitute justice who will participate in the consideration and decision of the matter. The substitute justice shall be selected using a neutral rotation process from a list of eligible retired justices maintained by the Supreme Court.”

The rule became effective immediately — that is, last Tuesday.

A preliminary look at the rule raises real questions about its constitutionality/legality. There is no state statute or constitutional provision that specifically confers such authority on the court. While state law contemplates the appointment of emergency temporary justices when a sitting justice becomes incapacitated, there is no provision to do anything of the kind merely when justices must sit out cases due to conflicts of interest. Moreover, the rule’s vague prescription that such appointments will be allowed only “when necessary to avoid the possibility of an evenly divided” panel raises all kinds of questions. Many decisions of the court include multiple findings and rulings. What if the court is unanimously agreed on one part of a case and evenly divided on another? Does the temporary justice get appointed to help decide the whole case? And when will the appointment take place — halfway through deliberation when the even divide becomes apparent?

The bottom line: This is a very important matter that goes to the heart of the citizenry’s constitutional right to elect the members of the Supreme Court. While there may conceivably be some good reasons to enact such a rule, it deserves a lot more notice and opportunity for public input than the court provided — especially at a moment in time in which several fundamental disputes (including the outcome of the Governor’s race and a plan to pack the court with additional appointees) are currently before the public. At best, the court acted obliviously in issuing such a potentially far reaching new rule last Tuesday.

Commentary

Expert: North Carolinians should keep enrolling in Obamacare

There was a fine and important post yesterday from Center of Budget and Policy Priorities health policy expert Susan Lueck entitled: “Consumers Should Keep Enrolling in Marketplace Coverage” that was worth sharing widely. Here’s Lueck:

“Donald Trump’s election and incoming House and Senate Republican majorities have millions of people who buy their health insurance on the individual market — as well as many uninsured people poised to buy a plan there — concerned about what may happen to that coverage.  But the marketplace plans and the subsidies to help modest-income people afford them are still available and will likely remain so for some time.

Open enrollment — the annual period when people can newly enroll in a plan or change plans for 2017 — extends through January 31.  People who want their coverage to start January 1 must sign up by December 15.

Some good news came last Wednesday, when more than 100,000 people signed up for plans through the federally run marketplace — the largest influx of enrollees in a single day since enrollment started on November 1.

Other people may be unsure of what to do amid news of Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the law that made the individual market more accessible for people with health conditions and provided subsidies to offset premiums and other cost-sharing charges to people who lack access to other coverage.  It would be a mistake to miss the open enrollment deadline and lose the chance to get coverage.  People should enroll now, so they can make sure they can obtain preventive benefits at no cost, get coverage of checkups and prescriptions, and protect themselves financially in case they face significant health care needs during the year.  Those currently covered by a marketplace plan should visit healthcare.gov (or the marketplace in their state) during open enrollment to consider whether to keep the same plan or switch to one that may better meet their needs.

Whatever may happen to health reform will take time.  Leaders of the effort to repeal the law have already said there should be a transition period to avoid disruption; an earlier repeal bill that President Obama vetoed would have kept subsidies for marketplace plans in place for two years.  Many Republicans say they want to pass alternative health care proposals, and that could take them some time to figure out.

For consumers, coverage is available, but the open enrollment clock is ticking.  People shouldn’t miss out on important benefits because they are confused or afraid.”