Commentary

(UPDATED – See below) There’s not a whole lot of encouraging news Moms Demand Actionemanating from the North Carolina General Assembly these days. Today at 12:30, for example, a House Judiciary committee took up legislation to allow some public servants to refuse to perform their sworn duties when it comes to marrying same-sex couples.

So, it was especially encouraging this morning to see and listen to the group of caring and informed citizens pictured at left who came to the Legislative Building to speak out against the ongoing gun violence epidemic that plagues our state. The group, Moms Demand Action, brought more than two dozen gutsy advocates to the halls of the General Assembly (some of them survivors of gun violence) to deliver cookies to legislative offices and inform state lawmakers that there is a wind shift underway when it comes to public attitudes toward guns.

Where once widespread apathy from average citizens allowed the N.R.A., the gun industry and other extreme pro-gun groups to bully lawmakers into doing whatever they asked without organized opposition, the Moms Demand Action citizen lobbyists informed lawmakers today that things are changing. Indeed, with more than 93,000 members in North Carolina and a growing list of successes around the country, there is every reason to believe that the group has begun the long, slow process of reintroducing a measure of sanity into the state’s gun violence debate.

Moms Demand Action tableThat said, there is certainly a heck of a mess to clean up — one that some lawmakers appear to remain bent on making even worse. Yesterday, in the latest effort to bring killing machines into every conceivable nook and cranny of our society, two Forsyth County House members introduced a “local bill” that would allow private school personnel in their county to bring guns onto campuses.

Moms Demand Action opposes the measure and has added it to its list of action items (along with the current and energetic #GroceriesNotGuns campaign to get Kroger and Harris-Teeter to join the list of responsible companies that ban loaded firearms from their stores). (Note: the original version of this story incorrectly stated that Moms Demand Action had taken no position on the bill).

If you’d like more information, visit www.momsdemandaction.org.

News

Legislation that would allow magistrates to discriminate against same sex couples, a renewed push to end dark money in the political process, and a bi-partisan effort to save the historic preservation tax credit mark our top stories of the day:

NC Budget and Tax Center

In a piece released on Monday, Paul Krugman reflected on the decision by Walmart to raise the minimum wage of its workers. He notes that this will likely lead to many more companies following suit. Indeed TJ Maxx-Marshalls has already signaled that it will do the same for its workers this year.

More than moving business to act, these private sector initiatives signal that the economic arguments—reduced turnover, higher productivity, improved morale– for raising the minimum wage standard through public policy make good sense. As Krugman points out:

What this means, in turn, is that engineering a significant pay raise for tens of millions of Americans would almost surely be much easier than conventional wisdom suggests. Raise minimum wages by a substantial amount; make it easier for workers to organize, increasing their bargaining power; direct monetary and fiscal policy toward full employment, as opposed to keeping the economy depressed out of fear that we’ll suddenly turn into Weimar Germany. It’s not a hard list to implement — and if we did these things we could make major strides back toward the kind of society most of us want to live in.

The bottom line is that the choice to keep the minimum wage standard low as a matter of policy no longer makes sense for workers or businesses. It’s time for policymakers to follow these leaders and raise the minimum wage.

News
SCOTUS Sketch

(Supreme Court sketch: Art Lien)

The U.S. Supreme Court gets a second shot at the Affordable Care Act this morning, with arguments set to start any minute in King v. Burwell.

If you were hoping to catch the arguments via live stream, well, you can’t. That’s because the nation’s highest court still does not allow cameras in the courtroom.

A number of open government organizations are taking advantage of the public interest in this case to make their case for the need of live coverage there, via the public announcement below.

In the meantime, some media outlets will be having reporters shuttling in and out of the courtroom with reports on the questioning and we’ll be posting some of those here as we see them.

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asking about standing of challengers to sue, per Wall Street Journal live blog:

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Here’s the mid-argument update from SCOTUSblog:

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Justices move from standing to questions about reading the statute literally — as challengers ask — and the problems with that.  More from SCOTUSblog:

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From Election Law Blog’s Rick Hasen:

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Here’s what Justice Anthony Kennedy was asking, per SCOTUSblog update:

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Questioning going overtime:

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Plenty of questioning on the merits means likely no ruling based upon lack of standing, says SCOTUSblog:

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Justice Kennedy pushed government lawyer Michael Carvin, asking if “pressuring” states into creating their own exchanges is problematic. His response, per WSJ:

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Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor jump in, per WSJ:

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Questioning of the Solicitor General, arguing in favor of the reading that subsidies were availalbe under either exchange, wasn’t much easier. Per SCOTUSblog:

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Arguments have ended.  Here’s a few post-game predictions from legal experts and court watchers:

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News

Senate Bill 2 – Magistrates Recusal for Civil Ceremonies – will be before the House Judiciary Committee later this afternoon. The legislation would allow North Carolina magistrates to opt out of gay marriages, if they hold a ‘sincere religious’ objection.

Editorial writers have called the legislation “a silly maneuver” that allows sworn public officials to sidestep their duty.

Rep. Susan Fisher, who appeared on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon last weekend, said lawmakers should legitimately be concerned about how this bill could be expanded:

“If you look at this in terms of discriminatory behavior, it opens the door wide for any kind of discrimination you’d want to throw in there,” explained the Buncombe County representative. “It’s wrong on many, many levels, but it does seem to be just another attempt at an end run around a Supreme Court decision that is so important to the lives of so many people in our state.”

Click below to hear Rep. Fisher in her own words. Senate Bill 2 will be considered by the House Judiciary I committee at 12:30pm in Room 415 of the Legislative Office Building.

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