Commentary

FrackingAs you may have heard, North Carolina’s Mining and Energy Commission held the last in a series of meetings last Friday during which they considered public feedback on the draft fracking rules. Despite having received over 200,000 public comments over the last few months, the Commission only made a few little changes to the rules. They have now come up with a finalized set of rules which will eventually make its way to the General Assembly, where it is likely to be approved. Given that fracking may begin in North Carolina as early as next year, you may want to know a thing or two about these rules.

The majority of the public comments called for stricter safety rules. In response, the Commission made some of the following changes:

  • Unannounced inspections will be permitted – the rules will now allow inspections to take place without prior notice to drillers, in order to encourage the drillers to maintain ongoing compliance.
    (BUT note: the rule is just providing permission, it is neither requiring that inspections take place nor requiring that they take place with regular frequency)
  • Amount of time for permit application to be approved or denied will be increased to 180 days – this allows the public to have more notice and opportunity to comment on the request.
  • So-called “fluid pits” will be required to be larger and continuous monitoring will be required – fracking fluid is held in large open pits, which can be a huge safety hazard. The Commission did not ban open fluid pits but rather just increased their size, in order to prevent spills, and increased the frequency of monitoring for leakage into the ground, from monthly to continuous.

Among the items the rules don’t address: Read More

Commentary

Tillis_McCrory_Berger-400It seems like a long time ago, but it was just the beginning of last year that North Carolina’s newly-elected governor promised state “tax reform” that would be “revenue neutral.” In other words, while the Guv was promising tax cuts, he was also calling for tax modernization that would enhance revenues in other areas — thus assuring that government would have the money it needed to fund core services in a fast-growing state. So, while it was always clear that a McCrory plan would enact regressive changes that favored the well-off, there was at least some hope that the state could at least avoid going backwards in the provision of basic services that undergird the middle class

We all know what happened next. Legislative leaders deep-sixed McCrory’s revenue neutrality idea in a New York minute and, instead, quickly acted to make big tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations a vehicle for slashing core services like education, environmental protection and the courts system.

Now, less than a year since the Tillis-Berger tax package went into effect (with full McCrory approval), the chickens are coming home to roost. As this Public News Service story highlights this morning, 2015 is almost certain to bring North Carolina yet another damaging and wholly unnecessary budget crisis: Read More

News

If you missed last week’s Fitzsimon File on North Carolina’s looming teacher shortage, make time this week to listen to Policy Watch’s recent radio interview with Keith Poston, executive director of the Public School Forum.  Poston discusses North Carolina’s troubling teacher turnover rate and how to retain our best educators.

For a preview of Poston’s radio interview click below. Download the podcast of the full interview here.

YouTube Preview Image

 

 

Commentary

It’s tragically absurd that people have been forced to resort to this, but the family, friends and advocates helping Texas death row inmate Scott Panetti have launched a petition drive to help promote his effort to gain clemency.

The following description of Mr. Panetti’s situation comes from the good folks at the Texas Defender Service:

Scott Panetti was honorably discharged from the Navy at the age of 18. Eighteen months later, he was diagnosed with “early schizophrenia.”

Scott Panetti has suffered from severe mental illness for over 30 years. It first manifested itself at least a decade Scott Panettibefore the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death in Texas. His severe mental illness has infected every stage of his capital case and although Mr. Panetti continues to be severely mentally ill, Texas now plans to execute Mr. Panetti on December 3, 2014.

This is the enduring image of Mr. Panetti’s case: a paranoid schizophrenic wearing a TV-Western cowboy costume; on trial for his life, insisting on defending himself without counsel; attempting to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ; and raising an insanity defense. Mr. Panetti’s pro se performance was an abomination and his trial was a mockery of the criminal justice system. Read More

News
UNC Not Fair

(Source: UNCnotfair.org)

Edward Blum must have found his plaintiffs.

Blum is the retired stockbroker who, with the financial backing of several conservative donors, has been pumping named plaintiffs into some recent high-profile civil rights challenges that have landed before the U.S. Supreme Court — namely, the Fisher v. University of Texas affirmative action case and the Shelby County v. Holder voting rights case.

Over the past year or so, through his Project on Fair Representation, Blum has targeted the admission practices of  three universities — UNC-Chapel Hill, Harvard University,and the University of Wisconsin — inviting students who were rejected by those schools to contact the project.

On websites set up for each school — at UNCnotfair.org, for example — the group poses this question: “Were you denied admission to the University of North Carolina? It may be because you’re the wrong race.”

Today the group announced the filing of two separate lawsuits against Harvard and UNC – Chapel Hill, respectively, alleging that the schools unlawfully used racial and ethnic classifications in admissions.

The UNC complaint, filed in Greensboro, begins with this: “This is an action brought under the Fourteenth Amendment and federal  civil rights laws to prohibit UNC-Chapel Hill from engaging in intentional discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity.”

The cases represent the first step in a long march towards a hoped-for U.S. Supreme Court ban on all forms of racial and ethnic preference in university admissions, according to SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston:

The basic thrust of the new lawsuits is that Harvard and the flagship university in North Carolina are using admissions programs that cannot satisfy the tough constitutional test for judging race-based policy — “strict scrutiny.”  But their broader theme is that the Supreme Court’s affirmative action efforts beginning with the Bakke ruling have failed to end racial bias in admissions programs, so it is now time to overrule Bakke and at least one other decision.

***

[T]he Harvard and UNC lawsuits clearly were prepared to build a case in lower courts so that, perhaps two or three years from now, the lawsuits could reach the Supreme Court for an ultimate test of affirmative action, at least in college admissions.

In the lawsuits, brought under the name “Students for Fair Admissions Inc,”  .”The lawsuits do not ask the courts to abandon the idea that racial diversity among college students is a valid educational goal.  Instead, they contend that diversity can be achieved by race-neutral alternatives, so public colleges and those that receive federal funds should be ordered to end, altogether, any use of race in the process.

Read the full UNC complaint here.