Commentary

Editorial: Tillis is flat wrong about NC tax cuts

Raleigh’s News & Observer has an on-the-money editorial this morning in which it blasts Senator Thom Tillis for promoting North Carolina’s destructive trickledown tax policies as a model for the nation. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

Broader numbers indicate that North Carolina’s “tax reform” has not, or at least not yet, stimulated the state economy. Indeed, the austerity spending the tax cuts require may have undercut growth that would have resulted from more robust state investment in infrastructure, educational systems and people.

John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill research firm specializing in economic and social policy, says Tillis’ claims ignore the reality on the ground. Household income, adjusted for inflation, is about the same as before the recession hit in 2007. Wages are not going up. The poverty rate (15.4) is improving slightly but remains 1.1 percent higher than in 2007.

Essentially, the Republican approach of cutting taxes in ways that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large, profitable corporations has not significantly improved North Carolina’s economy from 10 years ago.

“We are having growth, but it’s nowhere near adequate to lead to improvement in quality of life and well being,” Quinterno says. “If people aren’t better off that they were 10 years ago, that is a hollow victory. It’s nothing to celebrate. It’s saying the status quo is acceptable.”

And the status quo in North Carolina is not a model for the nation. Economically, the state is being pulled apart as its urban centers grow rapidly and its rural counties remained mired in the last recession.

On Wednesday, the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the nonpartisan N.C. Justice Center, released an analysis of the state’s August labor market data that showed how uneven economic progress is across North Carolina. One telling fact: 48 of North Carolina’s 100 counties had fewer jobs in August than before the Great Recession. And even some urban counties are losing ground. Rocky Mount and Goldsboro lost jobs over the past year.

The truth is that there’s little evidence that state tax cuts can spur a state’s economy while there’s abundant evidence that a failure to invest can stymie it, as has been recently demonstrated in Kansas. In any event, the tax cuts in North Carolina have only been in effect for about three full years. It’s too soon to assess how much they’ve helped or hurt the economy. And it’s far too soon for Sen. Tillis to be telling Congress to follow North Carolina’s example in shaping tax reform.

Commentary

NC featured in new national report criticizing legislative overreach vis-à-vis local government

The widely respected American Constitution Society released a new report today that pans the efforts of North Carolina legislators to hamstring local government through state statutes that preempt city and county ordinances. The report is entitled “The Troubling Turn in State Preemption: The Assault on Progressive Cities and How Cities Can Respond.” This is from a release that accompanied the report:

Increasingly, states are attempting to shut down local innovation through preemptive legislation that overrides local lawmaking. Whether threatening to withhold state funding from sanctuary cities, precluding civil rights protections for LGBT citizens, or prohibiting cities from raising the minimum wage for their workers, these efforts are stifling local democracy. In some cases, preemption efforts have even gone so far as to impose criminal liability on city officials who merely vote for progressive legal reforms. This Issue Brief surveys the landscape of state preemption and offers “possibilities for strengthening home rule to advance progressive local policymaking at a moment when cities increasingly stand on the front lines of economic justice, civil rights, sustainable development, and so many other critical policy domains.”

The report highlights North Carolina’s infamous House Bill 2 and its disastrous preemption of a Charlotte ordinance that sought to bar discrimination in access to public facilities and the state’s efforts to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” as examples of the kind of problematic preemption that has been on the rise across the nation.  This is from the report:

In an era of paralysis and increasingly bitter partisan conflict at the national level, cities have become a critical source of innovation across a wide array of policy areas that advance inclusion, equitable opportunity, and social justice. In recent years, cities and other local governments have taken the lead in enacting minimum wage and paid sick leave policies, expanding the boundaries of civil rights, responding to emerging environmental threats, tackling public health challenges, and advancing other important progressive goals.

Increasingly, however, states have been working to shut down this local innovation through legislation that either overrides—“preempts”—local policies or withdraws authority from local governments. North Carolina’s success in blocking the city of Charlotte’s ordinance extending municipal non-discrimination protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people appropriately sparked national outrage, but it is only one high-profile example. States have left almost no area of local policy free from preemption—increasingly expressing political differences through a legal tool originally designed to protect legitimate state interests in uniformity and to police against truly recalcitrant localities. The trend toward intrusive state oversight has been most notable in—but is by no means exclusive to—states with conservative state governments that are home to progressive cities, and these conflicts have been growing in recent years.

Let’s hope the report helps educate Americans to the dangers in this current trend and the need for a strong and thoughtful pushback from caring and thinking officials and citizens. Click here to learn more about the report.

Commentary

Local physicians speak out for reproductive freedom on International Safe Abortion Day

Today, September 28, is International Safe Abortion Day. All across the planet, supporters of reproductive freedom and health are taking action, speaking up and promoting the Twitter hashtag #IResistWePersist. In commemoration of this day, a group of North Carolina physicians have authored the following essay. We’re proud and happy to share it here.

North Carolina: Still denying access to basic reproductive health and freedom

As medical doctors, our patients trust us with intimate stories about their lives.  This is a privilege and something we take seriously. At times our patients need safe abortion care and we are committed to supporting them in this choice. Our patients have many reasons for why they may choose an abortion. They may be caring for sick children or a newborn; dealing with chronic mental illness; leaving an abusive relationship; trying to fulfill their dreams of educationlearning that a desired pregnancy went terribly wrong after infertility treatment; or finding themselves financially and/or emotionally unprepared to care for a child at this point in their lives. Nearly one in three women will have an abortion in her reproductive life, but few will think about the ability to access this health service until they find they need it.

In North Carolina, access to safe abortion care, either through taking medication or having an outpatient procedure, is inequitable. Our patients’ lives are made more difficult through unnecessary restrictions that fail to improve their health and safety, and instead punish those with the fewest resources. Abortion has a strong safety record, yet is still subject to often arbitrary, politically motivated and burdensome restrictions.

Federal regulations restrict people with Medicaid or any federal health insurance program from using their insurance to pay for abortion care. In North Carolina, state law excludes abortion coverage for any state, city, or county employee; or for anyone who purchases private health insurance on the ACA marketplace. This often puts safe, quality abortion care out of reach for many of our patients. And when some patients do come up with the money needed, we know they may be skipping rent or medication payments, or putting their safety at risk by revealing their situation in order to borrow money.

In North Carolina, state law also requires minors to get parental consent in order to have an abortion, and that patients wait unnecessarily for 72 hours prior to receiving abortion services once they have contacted a clinic.  These laws interfere in our ability to provide the best care for our patients.

And at clinics offering abortion care, there are often protesters who harass and intimidate our patients as well as the health care staff who try to help them. Instead of trusting and supporting our patients to know what decisions are best for them and their families, our state makes access to genuine health care more difficult.  So-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are funded with an increasing amount of tax dollars, despite the fact that they have been documented to give false medical and health information, and often deceptively delay or deny access to abortion care.

We chose to practice medicine to reduce suffering, and to support families and our communities regardless of the challenges they face. We find ourselves in a climate that is increasingly hostile to our patients based on race, immigration status, sexuality, and financial resources.  As doctors and public health professionals we will continue to support our patients and resist laws that do not promote their health.  International Safe Abortion Day is a reminder that all people have a right to health care, and this includes safe abortion care.

Dalia Brahmi, MD MPH
Leslie Montana MD, MPH
Erica Pettigrew MD, JD, MPH
Surah Grumet, MD, MPH
Lalita Sidana, MD, MPH
Taylor Goodnough, DO

Commentary, News

BREAKING: Plans for next week’s special legislative session detailed in House Speaker’s memo to GOP members

House Speaker Tim Moore

As North Carolina lawmakers prepare to return to Raleigh next week for the latest in a seemingly endless series of special legislative sessions, rumors have been plentiful about what might actually be on the agenda. One rumor held that lawmakers would discuss possible constitutional amendments. Another held that next week’s convening would feature only brief, “skeletal” sessions and that business wouldn’t get underway in earnest until the week of October 8.

Now, thanks to an email sent to House Republican members on Monday of this week by House Speaker Tim Moore and obtained by Policy Watch, we know that neither of these rumors is true — at least insofar as the House is concerned.

Here is the text of the email:

“Members:

For your planning purposes, I expect that we will be in session nest week on Wednesday, Thursday and possibly Friday. I do not foresee us going any time past Friday and frankly I hope to finish everything on Thursday but given the second / third reading rules we may have to roll over to Friday. The items on the short list for next week are listed below and any members who believe there is something of great urgency that is not included should contact me at once. We are working to have everything in bill form ready to be heard in the appropriate committee on Wednesday with floor action as early as possible on each bill. To that end, I am directing that all conference reports be turned in to the House Principal Clerk by Wednesday 10/4/17 at 5:00 P.M. Those members who are working on legislation should attempt to have everything ready for printing by the end of this week. My staff is working with bill sponsors already and will help anyone else upon request.

I want to avoid the down time we had the last special session but we will all have to work together in order to do so. Please let me know if you have any questions or need any further information. I want this to be a productive mini-session for all of us and minimize the time each of you are taking away from your families, jobs and other obligations. As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Speaker.

Tim

Legislation:
Judicial Redistricting
Veto Overrides – S16 and H56
H162 – Rule Throttle (up or down vote on Conf. Report)
Greensboro / Guilford public notice local bill
Brawley Mecklenburg local bill
Budget Tech corrects
Conf. reports – Oct. 4 / 5:00 P.M. deadline or push to next session
Appointments bill
AG criminal appeals fix
DWI / Statute of Limitations fix
Film Credit Expiration fix.”

Of course, none of this is written in stone and it only represents the plans of one powerful leader. That said, the memo provides a remarkable and troubling commentary. That lawmakers would even contemplate taking up so many important matters in such a short time with essentially no notice to the public is outrageous and further confirmation that the current leaders of the General Assembly view traditional legislative processes as essentially obsolete.

As more details become available on the matters Moore references, we’ll have further updates in the hours and days ahead.

Commentary

Greensboro columnist blasts Congressman/Pastor Walker over “eye candy” remark

Just this week, reporter Lauren Horsch of the NC Insider posted a story about how women are still badly under-represented amongst elected officials in North Carolina. Yesterday, we got new confirmation as to why this is so — namely the neanderthal-like attitudes still adhered to by remarkably ignorant men.

As the AP reported, one of those men is pretty clearly Congressman (and Pastor!) Mark Walker (pictured at left):

“The chairman of an organization of GOP conservatives has jokingly alluded to female members of the group as ‘eye candy.’

North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, who heads the Republican Study Committee, said at a Tuesday news conference that the group has almost 160 men and women and added that “if it wasn’t sexist, I’d say RSC ‘eye candy.'”

Standing next to Walker at the time was 41-year-old Rep. Mia Love of Utah, the only Republican African-American woman in Congress.

After the event, Walker said in a statement: “During a press event today, I made a flippant remark meant to be light-hearted but fell short. I’m proud of the women who serve in our RSC leadership.”

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record, (Walker’s hometown paper) had this to say in a post late yesterday:

Eye candy?

I don’t like that term.

I cringed when a friend of my niece’s family used that term to describe her at her engagement party.

Yes, she’s an attractive young woman. Yes, remarking on a bride-to-be’s beauty is fine, in my opinion.

But “eye candy” isn’t the right expression of that.

Candy is sweet, tasty and insubstantial. There’s not much to it beyond a quick bite.

A woman who’s “eye candy,” in that sense, is nice to look at but that’s about all there is to her.

So it’s astonishing to hear U.S. Rep. Mark Walker refer to female colleagues as “eye candy.”

Honest to goodness.

Walker, as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, with members of that group standing next to him, was making a statement in front of the Capitol today and said:

“The accomplished men and women of the RSC. And women. If it wasn’t sexist, I would say the RSC eye candy, but we’ll leave that out of the record, are not attention seekers.”

Walker was a Baptist minister by occupation before his run for Congress.

Let me be clear: Compared to Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape, this isn’t even a misdemeanor on the politically incorrect scale. Walker made the remark in a playful way, not like the habitual womanizer heard bragging to Billy Bush.

But it’s disappointing. I don’t understand it. Women who serve in Congress are not insubstantial people. They are not “candy” of any kind. They deserve more respect.”