“Without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury” — excerpts from President Joe Biden’s inaugural speech

President Biden speaks at an event in Jackson, Miss. He was inaugurated today as the 46th president. (Photo: Whitehouse.gov)

Below are excerpts from President Joe Biden’s inaugural address, following his swearing-in as the nation’s 46th president:

We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.

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We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome this deadly virus. We can reward work, rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice. We can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.

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We can see each other, not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.

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And so today, at this time, in this place, let us start afresh. All of us. Let us listen to one another. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another. Politics need not be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured. 

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Here we stand, looking out to the great mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream. Here we stand where, 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change!

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And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy and to drive us from this sacred ground. That did not happen. It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. Not ever.

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We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.

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My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other. We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.

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Now we must step up, all of us. It is a time for boldness, for there is much to do. And this is certain. I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. 

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Before God and all of you I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution.I will defend our democracy. I will defend America.

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So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to the tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.

Cooper: Help is on the way. But first we have to dig deep

By Gov. Roy Cooper

When I announced North Carolina had its first known COVID case on March 3rd, most of us didn’t expect to be living like this in December. Instead of preparing for beloved holiday traditions, we’re making virtual gathering plans and mourning the loss of more than 290,000 Americans from COVID-19.

As tough as this is, especially at the holidays, the sacrifices we’re making now will ensure that our loved ones can gather again at next year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas tables.

Our COVID-19 numbers are dire, and we need North Carolinians to take this virus seriously. A month ago, daily case counts above 3,000 were troubling. Recently, we’ve had several days with more than 6,000 new daily cases. Hospitals and health care workers are feeling the strain. More than 80% of North Carolina counties have been designated as red or orange, meaning their community spread is way too high.

Until vaccines are widely available, we have a few tools that we know can keep people safe while also boosting our economy — wearing our masks, staying socially distant and keeping any gatherings small and outdoors, or better yet, online.

We have put in place a new, modified Stay at Home Order that requires people to be home between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am. This builds on strong safety protocols like the mask requirement and capacity limits we already have in place, and we will continue watching our trends to see if more is needed.

We don’t want to implement tighter restrictions. Too many small businesses and families are struggling to make ends meet as it is. They need significantly more financial support from the federal government, and I’ve repeatedly urged Congress and the President to pass a stimulus package that helps families and businesses before 2020 ends.

But our top priority will always be saving lives. We’ll do what’s necessary to protect North Carolinians and make sure anyone who needs a hospital or ICU bed gets one, whether it’s to treat COVID or a heart attack.

Advances in vaccine technology and concentrated efforts by our scientists have given us hope that new vaccines will get us to the other side of this pandemic.

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has been working hard for months to develop a vaccine distribution plan so we can hit the ground running once vaccines arrive. Quantities will be limited at first, but trusted hospitals and health care providers will be ready to vaccinate priority populations — those who are at-risk of exposure like health care workers and North Carolinians at risk of severe illness.

I have confidence in this process and plan to roll up my sleeve when it’s my turn to get the vaccine.

But for now, we have to work together and tap into the resiliency that defines our state. Whether it’s helping our neighbors rebuild after a hurricane or coming together to support our loved ones who are most vulnerable to this virus, North Carolinians are best at looking out for each other when times are tough.

That spirit is still in us, no matter how tired or frustrated we are. Dig deep and don’t let weariness win. Together we will beat this thing.

This essay and image appeared originally on Cooper’s Medium page.

Read all our Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidate Q&A’s here

As part of our ongoing effort to inform North Carolinians about the state judiciary, Policy Watch is publishing a series of Q&A’s with the candidates seeking statewide judicial office this fall. Each of the 16 candidates (six who are contesting three Supreme Court seats and 10  who are contesting five seats on the Court of Appeals) was asked the same seven questions by former PW Courts, Law and Democracy Reporter Melissa Boughton. Candidates were not given instructions about the length of their responses, which have been edited only for grammar.

Regrettably, unlike in 2018 when all candidates responded to our inquiries, some did not provide answers this year. To help inform voters in these cases, we provide links to the unresponsive candidate’s website as well as available information about any public debates in which both candidates for the race in question have participated, or are expected to participate.

Incumbent Cheri Beasley, challenger Paul Newby vie for top NC Supreme Court seat

 

 

 

Incumbent Mark Davis, challenger Tamara Barringer vie for NC Supreme Court seat

 

 

 

Candidates Lucy Inman, Phil Berger, Jr. vie for NC Supreme Court seat

 

 

 

Candidates Tricia Shields and April Wood seek open Court of Appeals seat

 

 

 

Candidates Lora Cubbage and Fred Gore seek open Court of Appeals seat

 

 

 

Incumbent Reuben Young, challenger Jeff Carpenter vie for Court of Appeals seat

 

 

 

Incumbent Chris Brook, challenger Jefferson Griffin vie for Court of Appeals seat

 

 

 

Incumbent Chris Dillon, challenger Gray Styers vie for Court of Appeals seat

The latest on Trump’s positive COVID test; Biden tests negative

Trump in ‘good spirits’ after testing positive for COVID-19

By Laura Olson, Jane Norman and Ariana Figueroa

(This story has been updated)

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump tweeted early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19, throwing the presidential campaign into a new uproar.

“We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Friday morning that the president is experiencing mild symptoms, but is in “good spirits” and “very energetic.”

“We have a president who not only is on the job, will remain on the job,” said Meadows, who spoke without a mask, saying he tested negative. “I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.”

Late Thursday, Bloomberg News had reported that Hope Hicks, a close aide to Trump, had tested positive for the virus. Hicks had traveled to and from the presidential debate in Cleveland on Air Force One with Trump and also traveled to Minnesota with him, Bloomberg said.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of wearing a face mask and other safety precautions, contradicting top health officials in his administration, and is rarely seen wearing one as he presides over large rallies packed with maskless attendees.

At Tuesday’s debate, Trump said he wears one when he “needs to,” and derided Biden for routinely wearing a face covering. He has insisted that his approach is fine because those close to him are tested every day.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who shared the debate stage with Trump on Tuesday, posted on Twitter Friday that he and his wife, Jill, tested negative for the virus. “Thank you to everyone for your messages of concern,” he said. “I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance and wash your hands.”

In addition, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the Bidens’ physician, issued a statement through the campaign. “Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” he said.

Earlier Biden wished the president and first lady a swift recovery.

Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tweeted that Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for the virus on Friday morning.

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, tweeted Friday that he, too, has tested positive for COVID-19. Lee had met on Tuesday with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and posted a photo on Twitter showing that meeting, in which neither of them were wearing masks.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who shared a debate stage with Trump on Tuesday, posted on Twitter Friday morning, wishing the president a swift recovery.

“Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery,” Biden tweeted. “We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.” Read more

Report: NC relies too much on fines and fees to finance government and the problem is getting worse

Over the past decade, growth in N.C. agency fee revenue outpaced growth in corporate and personal income tax revenue, according to a new report released today by the N.C. Budget & Tax Center. This increasing reliance on fines and fees is posing challenges for state agencies that are trying to provide relief to North Carolinians during the COVID-19 crisis while coping the uncertainty of lost or delayed fee revenue. These agencies include the Judicial Branch, the Department of Transportation, and the UNC System.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that increasingly relying on fees to fund public services is hurting our ability to provide for North Carolinians,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the N.C. Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “In order for North Carolina to better respond to things like COVID-19, we need to rebalance our tax code away from regressive revenue streams like fines and fees and toward more equitable and adequate revenue. We should start by looking at corporate tax rates, which are the lowest in the region.”

The report, “Pandemic lays bare North Carolina’s reliance on fines and fees,” provides an analysis of changes in state revenue collections by source from 2011 to 2018, showing that state revenue from sales tax and fines and fees increased the most during this time, followed by personal income tax revenue.  The analysis also shows that revenue from the corporate income tax decreased dramatically following changes enacted by the General Assembly that went into effect in 2014.

The report argues that, taken together, these changes demonstrate an increasing reliance on regressive sources of revenue in the state, with the burden falling disproportionately on low-income North Carolinians and people of color.

“The current crisis is exposing not only the inequities inherent to North Carolina’s regressive revenue system, but the system’s inability to meet the state’s public investment needs,” said Sally Hodges-Copple, primary author of the report. “North Carolina’s policymakers have repeatedly and steadily shifted the burden for public investment onto those least able to pay, raising fees everywhere from the court system to the DMV to our college campuses, while at the same time asking less from the wealthiest individuals and most profitable corporations.”

The analysis also highlights the impact of regressive revenue changes on higher education in North Carolina, demonstrating how dramatic declines in corporate income tax revenue coincided with decreasing state appropriations to the UNC System and increasing tuition revenue.

Click here to explore the report.