Commentary

Latest rumored HB2 proposal ought to be a “no go”

A new tweet from WRAL at around 4:50 pm this afternoon indicates that the latest HB2 proposal from legislative leaders would place a moratorium on the enactment of new nondiscrimination ordinances by local governments until 2020.

If this is in fact the case, it ought to be summarily rejected by Governor Cooper, the NCAA and all other legislators and actors seeking to remove the HB2 stain from our state. As a practical matter the effect of such a “repeal” condition is to leave HB2 in effect for nearly four more years. There is simply no way that such a proposal can be seen as anything other an outrageous demand to cement discrimination in place. If lawmakers are serious about repealing the law, they would do well to begin by taking a look at the bill filed this afternoon by Republican Senator Jeff Tarte that would make sexual orientation a protected class under state law. Tarte’s proposal is incomplete but a much better start than the GOP moratorium idea.

Commentary

Editorial: Failure of Trumpcare shows need for NC to expand Medicaid now

This morning’s best editorial from a major North Carolina news outlet comes from Raleigh’s WRAL.com — it’s entitled “No excuses! Expand Medicaid now.”

Here’s an excellent excerpt:

“State legislative leaders have run out of excuses, as lame as they are anyway, to continue to deny health insurance to at least 500,000 North Carolinians.

North Carolina has the money. Legislators brag about the $1.5 billion in cash reserves. The Senate leadership has proposed a tax-cut package valued at $1 billion and the House has a more modest $224 million program.

Gov. Roy Cooper has a plan to fund it without general fund tax dollars. Cooper has proposed a plan that would “expand Medicaid eligibility to cover 624,000 additional individuals and secure North Carolina’s share of federal funds that would cover 95 percent of the cost of the expansion. Cooper is proposing that healthcare providers pick up the remaining 5 percent so there won’t be any cost to the state’s general fund. State hospital and other health care interests have expressed their support.

Last week’s failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act gives North Carolina an opportunity. States – including Indiana under former Republican governor and now Vice President Mike Pence and 30 others – that expanded their Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act have their programs intact. Other states, like heavily Republican Kansas, have quickly voted to opt into the program that has the federal government picking up 95 percent of the cost.

This is not a matter of choice. The hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who lack health coverage today aren’t in that position because they choose to be. Rather, it is a lack of economic opportunity, education and other life circumstances not of their choosing.

Extending health care coverage to those most in need is the right thing to do. We’ve yet to hear a good reason not to do it.

The editorial goes on to feature a powerful chart spelling out the number of people suffering and dying, the billions in federal dollars lost and the thousands of jobs not created as a result of the Medicaid blockade. Click here to see it and to read the entire post.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Activists call on Tillis to speak up, demand investigation of Trump-Russia ties

For several weeks now, a sizable group of activists have been gathering on a weekly basis outside the Raleigh office of North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis to demand that Congress provide a check to the extremist policies of a president for whom more and more basic questions of legitimacy continue to arise. Today 50 or so demonstrators renewed their efforts with a special focus on Trump’s Russia ties and the need for a thorough and independent investigation before any major presidential initiatives can be  allowed to proceed.

Demonstrators were especially adamant today that the Senate should not take up the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch for a lifetime appointment so long as basic question remain unanswered about Trump’s possible illegal — even treasonous — relationship with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Demonstrators repeatedly chanted “No confirmation without investigation!”

At the conclusion of today’s event, the group delivered an open letter to Tillis that read as follows:

Dear Senator Tillis,

We have been coming to your office every week for ten weeks. It is not always the same people, and while various organizations and churches are represented, there is no official group. Last week there were 75 people including physicians and clergy. We come because we feel our very democracy is in danger, and the extremist policies of this administration are already hurting our most vulnerable neighbors.

At the same time, it is becoming very clear that something sinister is being played out, and it seems very probable that a foreign power actually put the President in the white house and is now controlling him.

Today we come to specifically ask you to use whatever power you have to demand an immediate, nonpartisan investigation into the Russian role in the election and in the current administration. Read more

Commentary

New report: Clean energy employment leaving fossil fuels in the dust

As some conservative North Carolina lawmakers plot yet again to scuttle planned expansions of wind energy in the eastern part of the state, there’s new evidence that they are ignoring the obvious — namely, that clean, sustainable energy is the name of the game and it’s time to leave fossil fuels behind. This is from new post at the website Think Progress (“Clean energy employs more people than fossil fuels in nearly every U.S. state”):

“Nationally, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1, according to a new Sierra Club analysis of Department of Energy jobs data. And when it comes to coal and gas—two sectors President Donald Trump has promised to bolster through his upcoming executive order on energy regulation—clean energy jobs outnumber jobs dealing with those two fossil fuels by 5 to 1.

‘Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day,’ Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement. ‘These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.’

According to the Sierra Club’s analysis, nearly every state in the country has more jobs in clean energy than fossil fuels—just nine states have more jobs in fossil fuels than in clean energy. Some of largest discrepancies between clean energy jobs and fossil fuel jobs were in states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, where jobs in renewable energy ‘vastly exceeded jobs in the fossil fuel industry,’ according to Sierra Club’s analysis. Many of these places also happen to be states that helped Trump win the presidential election in November.”

The report in question includes North Carolina in its list of states in which clean energy jobs predominate:

“The Electric Power Generation segment employs 19,052 workers in North Carolina, 2.2% of the national total. Solar makes up the largest segment with 9,535 jobs, followed by traditional fossil fuel generation at 4,776 jobs.”

The Think Progress story goes on to note that while clean energy growth in the U.S. is rising fast, the country is still falling behind places like China and Brazil and that, not surprisingly, the Trump administration isn’t helping things. Happily, however, as with so many other issues, this does not seem to be a politically viable approach for long. The story notes that, even among Trump supporters, support for sustainable energy is high, with three-quarters favoring policies to spur its growth.

The bottom line: This is another issue in which ideologues on the Right can’t hold back progress for long. Caring and thinking people need to keep pushing.

Commentary

Home state editorial: SCOTUS nominee Gorsuch is “perfectly qualified but fatally flawed”

There’s a fine editorial today in the Aurora, Colorado Sentinel on the nomination of Coloradan Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. In it, the authors offer a powerful takedown of Gorsuch’s extreme views on religious freedom, which were best evidenced in his actions in the infamous Hobby Lobby case.

Here’s a powerful excerpt from “Gorsuch is a perfectly qualified but fatally flawed candidate for the Supreme Court”:

“We do not doubt his command of the law and language to make his case. But it’s that very eloquence that betrays his insistence that nothing weighs on his judgment other than the practical nature of the law. On the bench, Gorsuch wrongly allows the courts to protect the religious freedom of one citizen by denying the same rights of another. The most egregious example came in 2013 Hobby Lobby v Sebelius ruling.

That’s the landmark case trumped by conservatives that says, in certain cases, corporations can violate the rights and privileges of others if owners feel their religious freedoms are infringed upon. In the case of Hobby Lobby, owners David and Barbara Green objected to paying for employee health insurance that provided benefits for birth control, a component of Obamacare. Using some commonly accepted methods of birth control offended the religious sensibilities of the Greens. So they sued, and they won.

Gorsuch was a large part of that victory….

What Gorsuch implied is that the company’s religious convictions — an extension of the owners — trump those of an employee. In this case it was 13,000 employees. It’s not enough that the people who own the company be allowed to practice their faith any way they like. That’s never been questioned. Gorsuch argued that their faith extended to a legal instrument created to pay taxes and create commerce. He said the government can’t impose a religion on a business, but a business can impose its religion on anyone, no matter how far out of line the weirdness may be — as long as the convictions are genuine. Gorsuch said the government and the courts shouldn’t evaluate or judge “the correctness or the consistency” of what people say are religious objections, instead the courts should ensure they can claim whatever they like.

All well and good — until your religious rights impose on the rights of others. Weirdness, as we all know, is in the eye of the beholder.

Under Gorsuch’s ruling, if the Greens were to become devout Jehovah Witnesses, they could insist that company health insurance not offer medical treatment for leukemia that involves human blood components.

Gorsuch’s ruling would allow Westboro Baptist Church to create a corporation and buy up ambulance services across Kansas — and refuse to provide aid to homosexuals. The Gorsuch ruling would allow David Duke and his wife to buy up hotel chains across the South and refuse to rent rooms to blacks and other minorities.

No? Even proponents of the Hobby Lobby victory say such things would be unlikely. Talk all you want, but allowing some devout Christians objecting to having a hand in birth control is an easy sell in America. Had the Greens been Muslims who refused to hire women who shunned wearing burkas to work it’s unlikely this case would have gotten this far.”