Election results show NC remains behind the times on marijuana legalization

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In case you missed it, reporter Will Doran of Raleigh’s News & Observer has an informative story yesterday about the rapid progress the cause of marijuana legalization is making across the country and how, sadly, North Carolina seems to remain immune to the trend.

As Doran explains, voters in Mississippi yes Mississippi — voted overwhelmingly last week to approve a state ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana. Unfortunately, as is the case in so many other areas of public policy, North Carolina elected leaders lag stubbornly behind the times. This is from Doran’s story:

In addition to Mississippi, ballot initiatives are how two other Republican-led southern states, Florida and Arkansas, have also legalized medical marijuana over the last few years.

In North Carolina, the legislature alone can decide what will or won’t appear on the ballot. The two top Republican leaders at the legislature, Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, did not respond to questions about whether they would consider any such proposals.

And while a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of Americans — including 55% of Republicans — think marijuana should be legal, recent history shows GOP politicians in North Carolina remain skeptical.

The story also explains how a group of North Carolina officials in the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice discussed the issue this week, but seemed to agree that any progress in our state remains a long way off — this despite the widely understood fact that law enforcement discriminates against people of color in enforcing current marijuana prohibitions.

Although Doran’s story doesn’t mention it, it’s also worth noting that four states (New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota) approved ballot measures last week to legalize recreational marijuana. As a result, the scoreboard now shows that 15 states, two territories and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while 34 states and two territories allow medical marijuana.

All of which makes the silly prohibitionist stance of North Carolina officials that much more indefensible. Indeed, the notion that anyone in our state is facing criminal sanctions in 2020 for possessing marijuana for personal use is ridiculous.

Editorial: What NC voters told our still gerrymandered legislature

Be sure to check out this morning’s excellent Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com — “Voters to legislators. Stop fighting governor. Cooperate and compromise.”

As it explains, the idea being pushed by North Carolina Republicans that they somehow won a mandate by virtue of continuing their gerrymandered majorities in the General Assembly is absurd:

The notion that winning a majority of seats in a still-gerrymandered legislature is a mandate doesn’t match reality. In the state House of Representatives, Democrats captured 53% of the votes – while they only won 52 (43%) of the 120 seats. All this in districts so lacking in competition that the winning margin in 77% of the seats exceeded 20 percentage points.

In the state Senate, where Democrats did pick up two additional seats, they still hold just 44% of the 50 Senate seats even though they captured 48% of the vote. Sixty-two percent of the state Senate contests had landslide victory margins exceeding 20 percentage points.

…At best, the Republican legislators have no more of a claim to a mandate than does Gov. Roy Cooper – a Democrat who won a statewide race, non-gerrymander-aided contest – receiving more than 2.8 million votes and a victory margin that exceeded ANY statewide candidate as well as combined totals in the General Assembly.

We hear a clear message from North Carolinians in their vote for governor. They want a government that meets the state’s needs with quality services and is striving for the best – whether that be schools, health services, economic opportunity or quality of life. They have had enough of the legislature’s wasteful, bargain-basement mediocracy. Being just OK, muddled and middling, isn’t good enough and doesn’t meet the expectations of the electorate.

The editorial then goes on to spell out the kind of commonsense policy agenda that should be on tap for 2021, including:

  • Uniting behind state health and emergency officials to fight and effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Expanding Medicaid – which comes at little cost to taxpayers but the years of failure to expand have cost thousands of lives and tens-of-thousands of new jobs that should have, but have not been created.
  • Implementing the action plan agreed, by the plaintiffs and defendants and adopted by Judge David Lee in the Leandro settlement. There needs to be a sincere effort to meet the state’s constitutional promise to make a quality education available to every school child.
  • Adopting major bond issues for local school construction, community colleges and the University of North Carolina building needs, historic and cultural sites, as well as for local water and sewer projects.
  • Providing resources so the state’s prisons are properly staffed and properly equipped to assure the safety of those who work – and those incarcerated – in the state’s correctional institutions.

The bottom line: last week’s results may have been a disappointment for North Carolinians looking for a full-throated, across-the-board repudiation of Trumpism, but as the editorial explains, voters still made clear that they want an end to the petty obstructionism that has been the hallmark of the state’s legislative leadership in recent years.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Another GOP congressman from NC seeks a leadership position in Washington

Recently reelected Republican Congressman Richard Hudson of North Carolina’s 8th District (pictured at left) is reportedly seeking the position of Conference Secretary in his party’s House leadership team.

The current inhabitant of the position, Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, is seeking to become ranking Republican member on the powerful House Budget Committee.

This is from today’s version of the Politico feature known as “The Huddle”:

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) has officially thrown his hat into the ring to be GOP conference secretary next year. And Hudson, who has been dialing up colleagues nonstop the last few days making his pitch, is running unopposed and already has the votes locked down, per multiple sources. (He also sent out a brochure and plans to blast out supportive quotes from members representing a cross-section of the conference today.)

Hudson currently serves as a deputy whip, sits on the GOP Steering Committee, and also was finance chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee this cycle. Or, as fellow North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry put it, Hudson “has done every job you’re supposed to do along the way for House Republicans. He is a good team player.”

[Politico] caught up with Hudson, who shared his vision for the job. “I want to be a conference secretary who helps make sure we stay on offense and that we’re coordinated as we take back the House,” he said. The job description is broad, but Hudson said he has support from leadership to do as he sees fit with it. “I’ve got a lot of support from them,” he said. “And I’ll be given some runway.”

While the myriad leadership positions within the House (e.g. Whip, Conference Chair, Congressional Committee Chair) can be hard to follow — especially for those not immersed inside the Capital Beltway — they do have some importance in determining the pecking order among hundreds of  striving politicians with big ambitions and egos.

Soon-to-be-retired Republican Rep. Mark Walker has been serving as the House Republican Conference Vice Chair in the current Congress — a position that seems to have enabled him to, at least at times, maintain a some what higher profile with the D.C. media and, perhaps, wield a greater degree of clout than the average member.

Click here to read the entire Politico story, which details several other post-election machinations in recent days.

Former NC pol Tony Tata could soon be top Pentagon policy official after all

It may not last for long, but it appears the never-ending chaos and dysfunction in the Trump administration will soon lead to former North Carolina Transportation Secretary and Wake County school superintendent Tony Tata serving as the top policy official in the U.S. Defense Department.

As you will recall, Tata, who is a retired Army Brigadier General as well as a novelist and one-time Fox News commentator, was tapped for the position of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy by President Trump earlier this year, but saw the nomination go up in flames in the Republican-controlled Senate after multiple objections were raised from both sides of the aisle to many of Tata’s outrageous past statements — including calling President Barack Obama “a terrorist leader,” and saying that Islam “the most oppressive violent religion that I know of.”

A month or so later, however, Trump simply bypassed the Senate and appointed Tata to be the assistant to the undersecretary — a position that does not require confirmation by the Senate.

Now, today, with a new series of departures and firings taking place at the Pentagon as Trump’s post-election tantrum continues to play out, it appears that Tata may be left in charge — at least for the next couple months. This from Politico:

The departure of James Anderson, the acting undersecretary of defense for policy, potentially paves the way for Anthony Tata, President Donald Trump’s controversial nominee for the top policy job who was pulled from consideration due to Islamophobic tweets, to take over the policy shop. Anderson’s resignation also comes one day after Defense Secretary Mark Esper was fired by Trump, also over policy disagreements….

Tata, who has been performing the duties of the deputy position since the summer, will now likely slide into the No. 1 role. After the White House announced his nomination this year, Tata came under fire for tweets calling Obama a “terrorist leader” and for referring to Islam as the “most oppressive violent religion I know of,” among other controversial statements.

Tata, who was a frequent Fox News guest, also derided House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) on Twitter, and shared an article that promoted a conspiracy theory that Obama was a “Manchurian candidate.” Tata later said he regretted the now-deleted tweets.

(As an ironic side note, there’s been no word of opposition from North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis to the appointment even though Tata resigned from the military after an Army inquiry concluded that he had been involved in at least two adulterous affairs — the very same alleged offense Tillis used to bludgeon Cal Cunningham in the recently concluded U.S. Senate campaign.)

There’s no indication at this point whether Tata will have the time or capacity to make a real difference in U.S. defense policy during the 71 days that remain in Trump’s presidential term. One hopes that his chief duty in the coming days will involve preparing for a new administration and turning out the lights.

Of course, if his record of service in North Carolina is any indication, he’s unlikely to have trouble filling the days. During his time as North Carolina Secretary of Transportation, Tata still found time to pen his dime store novels and, at one point, to be absent from the state during a paralyzing winter storm to appear at a book promotion event in Chicago.

Come to think of it, such a book tour might be the best possible thing that could happen to the Pentagon at this point.