"Healthywealthy" by threestooges.net. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Healthywealthy.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Healthywealthy.jpg

“Healthywealthy” by threestooges.net. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb via Wikipedia

No, this post is not an attempt to personally disparage the folks running North Carolina government. Rather it is an attempt to conjure up an image that captures the impact of the decisions that state leaders have been inflicting of late on their brethren and sistren at the local level.

As some readers will recall, The Three Stooges were an outlandish and slapstick comedy trio that had a long run in the middle part of the last century. In one of the trio’s recurring bits, one Stooge (usually Moe – pictured on the left) would slap or punch the second Stooge, who would then, in turn punch the third member of the group. The third and most hapless Stooge would then turn beside him and find that he only had thin air to punch.

Sadly, this comedy bit pretty well captures the essence of what’s going on in North Carolina government right now: Whether it’s the McCrory-Pope team or the General Assembly that starts the punching, the ones left flailing at thin air are local governments.

For the latest classic example, check out the bill under consideration in the state Senate during the waning days of the 2014 session that would hamstring local governments in their ability to raise local sales taxes for important needs. While Senators sought to alter some of the the impacts of the bill last evening, it still promises to have a deleterious impact — especially on big counties like Wake and Mecklenburg. And, of course, this comes on the heels of several previous haymakers in which state leaders have slashed state support for locals.

The bottom line is that the overarching policy of the current conservative state leadership when it comes to local government is this: We’re all for local control that’s closest to the voters — except when we’re not (i.e. any time anyone at the local level even thinks about doing something — like raising taxes to provide essential public services — with which we disagree). SLAP!!!

Last week Cleveland County Rep. Tim Moore filed a July 25th sine die resolution setting the stage for lawmakers to wrap up the short session by Friday. Now it appears the chairman of the House Rules Committee may have been overly optimistic.

Here are five reasons why adjournment this week is looking unlikely:

  • Budget deadlock – House and Senate budget conferees have not met since last week, when the Senate put forth its latest offer. No public budget negotiations are on the calendar today, and House Speaker Thom Tillis will be in Washington, D.C. at a fundraiser for his U.S. Senate campaign.
    Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue discussed the budget stalemate on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon over the weekend, noting choices made in 2013 have left legislative leaders with some tough choices this year.
    YouTube Preview Image
  • RulesSen. Tom Apodaca, chairman of the powerful Senate Rules committee, cancelled today’s meeting. At this point in the session, the Rules Committee is deciding which bills merit a vote before the session concludes. Apodaca promises Wednesday’s Rules committee meeting will be “even better” – but this delay does not bode well for a quick adjournment.
  • Medicaid – Speaking of delays, the Senate put off until today a vote on the Medicaid Modernization Act. The latest Senate proposal for Medicaid reform would open the door to for-profit managed care companies to bid on contracts. Critics say this version of modernization would harm the award-winning Community Care of North Carolina program and reduce participation by doctors.  Notably, this legislation would also create a new Department of Medical Benefits, taking the oversight out of the state Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Coal Ash – Lawmakers still need to work out a compromise between completing plans to clean up the state’s toxic coal ash ponds. Don’t look for them to leave town in an election year without a deal on this issue.
  • Fulghum’s funeral  – Funeral services are now set for Wake County Rep. Jim Fulghum, who died Saturday following a short battle with cancer. A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. at Edenton Street United Methodist Church. Members from both chambers are likely to attend Dr. Fulghum’s service, pushing off final decisions on many of the larger issues for another day.

The good people at the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte posted the following story on the organization’s blog today:

Rausel AristaRausel is a great guy and he needs your help

Rausel Arista– father to 2 young boys, a community leader, and an organizer here at the Latin American Coalition since 2012– was detained and put into deportation proceedings this morning at the Buffalo, NY airport on his way home to Charlotte. He is currently being held in a Buffalo area detention center, hundreds of miles away from home and his family.

Please take a few moments to help Rausel by taking one or more of the following actions: Read More

With the budget focus still on education cuts and new Medicaid proposals, it’s easy to forget that plenty of other issues remain unresolved in the General Assembly.

Here’s a quick recap of proposed budget provisions affecting the courts and justice system.

Funding for the Administrative Office of the Court  Both the Senate and the House take an ax to system-wide funding of the courts. The Senate cuts technology funding to the courts by $3.7 million and the remaining AOC administrative appropriation by an additional $1.5 million. AOC fares only slightly better in the House budget, which directs cuts of $4.95 million without specifying where.

Cuts to Family Courts  The initial House budget guts Family Courts, eliminating $3 million in funding and 36 positions, a proposal in neither the Senate nor Governor’s budget. The bodies are still in disagreement over that proposal, though the House has since reduced the cuts to just Family Court administrators, eliminating $962,910 and 11 positions.

Legal Aid  TheSenate proposed cutting the court fees passed through the state bar to Legal Services to the tune of $1.8 million. The text providing for these cuts does not appear in the most recent compromise draft of the budget (as of June 13). Both bodies eliminate a $670,000 Access to Civil Justice grant to Legal Aid.

Public Defender  Both the House and Senate cut funds for indigent defense administrative costs, the House by $466,380, the Senate by $233,190 (including the elimination of the Public Defender Administrator).

State Bureau of Investigation/Crime Lab  Both bodies agree on transferring the SBI to Public Safety, but the Senate also wants to transfer the Crime Lab to DPS.

Three judge courts  The Senate also proposed substantive changes to the handling of constitutional challenges to state laws, requiring that all such cases be heard in Wake County by a panel of three judges selected from different parts of the state by the Chief Justice (similar to the process with redistricting challenges).

The Senate would also require that trial court orders temporarily blocking enforcement of a state law challenged as unconstitutional be automatically stayed (meaning that the challenged law remains enforceable while appeals are pursued).  And any such order would be directly appealable to the state Supreme Court – bypassing the Court of Appeals.

The text of these proposals does not appear in the most recent compromise draft of the budget (as of June 13).

For more on the initial Senate budget, read here.

For a further comparison of the Senate and House budgets, read here.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Senator Ted Cruz showed a display of false compassion for the refugee children at our border, stating that the more compassionate response is to send them back. He even accused Democrats of actually wanting them to be “maimed and brutalized.” Check out the video below:

At least Wallace questions the veracity of the argument before letting Cruz drone on. Does it get any lower than this?

In another Fox News interview, Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress from a megachurch in Dallas shared his opinion on the border crisis, going so far as to argue that one is being compassionate and imitating Jesus by building a fence to keep these children out. He compared it to building a fence around your pool so that your neighbor’s child doesn’t wander in, fall, and drown in your pool. Because apparently, letting children into the US for relief from the danger they are running from is even more dangerous than sending them back.

It is one thing to send children back out of blatantly selfish interest in protecting the border. It is quite another thing to call it “compassionate.”