Commentary

The momentum for abolition continues to build. Yesterday, the legislature of the red state of Nebraska voted overwhelmingly to abolish the death penalty and today, arch-conservative hero George Will told us why it was a good idea:

“The conservative case against capital punishment, which 32 states have, is threefold. First, the power to inflict death cloaks government with a majesty and pretense of infallibility discordant with conservatism. Second, when capital punishment is inflicted, it cannot later be corrected because of new evidence, so a capital punishment regime must be administered with extraordinary competence. It is, however, a government program. Since 1973, more than 140 people sentenced to death have been acquitted of their crimes (sometimes by DNA evidence), had the charges against them dismissed by prosecutors or have been pardoned based on evidence of innocence. For an unsparing immersion in the workings of the governmental machinery of death, read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, executive director and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Third, administration of death sentences is so sporadic and protracted that their power to deter is attenuated. And the expensive, because labyrinthine, legal protocols with which the judiciary has enveloped capital punishment are here to stay. Granted, capital punishment could deter: If overdue library books were punishable by death, none would be overdue. But many crimes for which death is reserved, including Tsarnaev’s crime of ideological premeditation, are especially difficult to deter.

Those who favor capital punishment because of its supposed deterrent effect do not favor strengthening that effect by restoring the practice of public executions. There has not been one in America since 1937 (a hanging in Galena, Mo.) because society has decided that state-inflicted deaths, far from being wholesomely didactic spectacles, are coarsening and revolting.

Revulsion is not an argument, but it is evidence of what former chief justice Earl Warren called society’s “evolving standards of decency.” In the essay ‘Reflections on the Guillotine,’ Albert Camus wrote, ‘The man who enjoys his coffee while reading that justice has been done would spit it out at the least detail.’ Capital punishment, say proponents, serves social catharsis. But administering it behind prison walls indicates a healthy squeamishness that should herald abolition.”

Commentary, Justice Denied for McCollum and Brown

McCollum BrownThe failure of Governor Pat McCrory to grant pardons to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown after more than eight months now borders on the farcical.

The editorial page of the Fayetteville Observer is the latest to weigh in with an exceedingly polite editorial entitled “Unjustly convicted, these men deserve justice.” Here is the conclusion:

“Eight months ago, a Robeson County judge reviewed the evidence and ordered the two men released. Since then, they have lived with their sister, near Eastover. The two are adjusting to the 21st century, learning about the Internet, cellphones and other integral parts of modern life that arrived while they were in prison.

But they are still in limbo, still not completely free to resume a normal life. Because of their rape conviction, they were ordered to registered as sex offenders before they were released. Their convictions are still on their records and a serious impediment to finding work.

By law, the state owes them $50,000 for each year of their improper incarceration, up to a maximum of $750,000. And even more important, the governor owes them a pardon – which rightfully should have come as soon as the men were cleared of the crimes. Three decades of their lives were unjustly taken away. There is no compensation large enough.

We hope the governor and his staff move quickly to clear McCollum’s and Brown’s records and get them the compensation they are due. They’ve given up more than anyone ever should.”

Commentary, News

The state House convenes at 10:00am Thursday where members are expected to debate dozens of amendments before voting on their version of the state budget.

On the plus side, the $22.1 billion spending plan includes a two percent pay raise for all teachers, with starting salaries for the state’s newest teachers rising to $35,000 a year. The budget also earmarks $100 million to handle school enrollment growth, which will accommodate an expected 17,000 additional students next year.

But what this budget fails to fund is just as important, according to Amber Moodie-Dyer with the NC Budget & Tax Center.

Moodie-Dyer notes the spending plan fails to restore funding for teaching assistants and underfunds textbooks, while opting instead to reduce the corporate tax rate.

Moodie-Dyer joins us this weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the budget process. For a preview of that radio interview click below:
YouTube Preview Image

The NC Budget & Tax Center is not alone that assessment of the House Budget. The editorial board of Greensboro’s News & Record writes:

…there still aren’t enough investments. North Carolina must restrengthen its universities and community colleges and do more to make sure children are ready for post-secondary education. Quality early childhood learning is still unavailable to many children, and high numbers never get on track in the primary grades.

The $400 million revenue windfall for the current fiscal year gives budget writers some hope that revenues will continue to be strong. They are wisely investing a little more in people, infrastructure and savings.

Yet with more corporate tax cuts coming, it’s questionable whether revenues will continue to grow enough to pay for further needed investments.

It would be better to freeze corporate tax rates and make sure a lush, green spring doesn’t dry up in a summer drought.

Read the full editorial here. For more analysis from the NC Budget & Tax Center on the House plan, click here.

Commentary

Tom JensenOne of the nation’s most respected pollsters — Tom Jensen of Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling — is out with some new and encouraging results from the state of Washington that seem likely to be a harbinger for for the nation.

The bottom line: New laws legalizing marijuana, same sex marriage and toughening gun control are all increasingly popular and seen by voters as no big deal. This is from a release distributed yesterday:

“Over the last couple elections voters in Washington legalized gay marriage and marijuana, and enacted background checks on all gun sales. Our newest poll in the state finds that all three of those new laws are even more popular now after being implemented than they were when voters first approved them.

In 2012 Washingtonians voted to approve gay marriage by 8 points. Now voters in the state say they support gay marriage by 20 points, 56/36. 78% of voters say that its being legal has either had a positive impact on their life or no impact at all, with only 22% claiming gay marriage has affected them negatively. Also 65% of voters in the state think gay conversion therapy should be illegal to only 14% who think it should be allowed. Majorities of voters across party lines- 78/6 with Democrats, 63/14 with independents, and 51/27 with Republicans- think conversion therapy should not be allowed.

Also in 2012 Washingtonians voted to legalize marijuana usage by 12 points. Now voters in the state say they support marijuana being legal by 19 points, 56/37. 77% of voters say marijuana being legal has either had a positive impact on their life or no impact at all, with likewise only 22% claiming marijuana legalization has affected them negatively.

Just last fall Washingtonians voted to legalize background checks on all gun sales by 18 points. Now voters in the state say they support background checks on all gun sales by 44 points, 68/24. 82% of voters in the state say extended background checks have either had a positive or no impact on their lives, while only 18% claim a negative impact. Even among gun owners 78% grant that extended background checks have had no adverse effect on their lives, and they support the policy 61/31.

Washington voters were on the leading edge of legalizing gay marriage, marijuana, and extended background checks. And since those policies went in effect the verdict has been no big deal, leading to their increasing popularity.”

Click here for all of the PPP results.

News
Larry Pittman

Rep. Larry Pittman

Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) is leading the fight in the General Assembly against the Common Core State Standards—or, as he characterizes them, a “part of the Marxist attack on America to destroy us from within that has been going on since before I was born.”

In an email response to a concerned citizen, who emailed the entire House Education Committee on Wednesday to voice her opposition to the Common Core State Standards, Pittman told the writer he plans to lead the fight against it for as long as possible.

“[Common Core] is just the latest expression of a decades-old scheme to wrest children from their parents’ influence and create a workforce and a populace who know only enough to do as they are told and who will not even understand when the government and big corporations have enslaved them,” Pittman wrote.

Common Core State Standards are a set of math and English language arts guidelines for what students should know and be able to do in those subjects. They have been the subject of nationwide controversy, and efforts are underway in North Carolina to either replace them or modify them substantially. (For more background, click here)

Read the full email exchange between Rep. Pittman and the concerned citizen below.

From: Rep. Larry Pittman
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 3:27 PM
To: ‘ _______’ ; Rep. Jeffrey Elmore; Rep. Craig Horn; Rep. Linda Johnson; Rep. Tricia Cotham; Rep. Edward Hanes; Rep. John Ager; Rep. Rob Bryan; Rep. George Cleveland; Rep. Jimmy Dixon; Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield; Rep. Susan Fisher; Rep. Rick Glazier; Rep. Charles Graham; Rep. Jon Hardister; Rep. Pat Hurley; Rep. Frank Iler; Rep. J.H. Langdon; Rep. Chris Malone; Rep. Bert Jones; Rep. Donny Lambeth; Rep. Graig Meyer; Rep. Bobbie Richardson; Rep. Paul Stam; Rep. Dennis Riddell; Rep. Rena Turner; Rep. Chris Whitmire
Cc: Tammy Pittman (Rep. Larry Pittman)
Subject: RE: My Children’s Education

Mrs. _______ ,

Thank you for your message.  You may or may not know that I am the one who has led the fight against Common Core in the Legislature.  I am not through, and will continue the fight as long as I am allowed the privilege of serving in the NC House.  Common Core is just one symptom of a larger assault on essential North Carolina and American values.  It is just the latest expression of a decades-old scheme to wrest children from their parents’ influence and create a workforce and a populace who know only enough to do as they are told and who will not even understand when the government and big corporations have enslaved them.  It is part of the Marxist attack on America to destroy us from within that has been going on since before I was born.  I will never give in to it, and thank you for your encouragement to continue my efforts.

God bless,

Representative Larry G. Pittman
N.C. General Assembly
82nd District   Cabarrus County
919-715-2009
1010 Legislative Building
16 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601-1096
Larry.Pittman@ncleg.net

 

From:  ___________
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 2:52 PM
To: Rep. Jeffrey Elmore; Rep. Craig Horn; Rep. Linda Johnson; Rep. Tricia Cotham; Rep. Edward Hanes; Rep. John Ager; Rep. Rob Bryan; Rep. George Cleveland; Rep. Jimmy Dixon; Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield; Rep. Susan Fisher; Rep. Rick Glazier; Rep. Charles Graham; Rep. Jon Hardister; Rep. Pat Hurley; Rep. Frank Iler; Rep. J.H. Langdon; Rep. Chris Malone; Rep. Bert Jones; Rep. Donny Lambeth; Rep. Graig Meyer; Rep. Larry Pittman; Rep. Bobbie Richardson; Rep. Paul Stam; Rep. Dennis Riddell; rina.turner@ncleg.net; Rep. Chris Whitmire
Subject: My Children’s Education

 

Dear NCGA Education Committee Member,

I feel it is my duty as a voter to make you aware of my standing on a very important issue.

I am 100% against our nations idea of “Common Core.”  It is holding back the potential of the children in this great nation.

I am writing you to say I support the North Carolina Plan of Education.

Please help the students of North Carolina have the opportunity to succeed to their highest potential.  After all isn’t that what our education system is for.

Sincerely,

_________