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Lunch links 3Here are five fast ones to get you, respectively: fired up, better informed, a little surprised, updated on an important anniversary and just plain sickened —

#1 -Scholars from colleges and universities around the state delivered a strong-worded letter this morning to Gov. McCrory and his state Budget Director, Art Pope, denouncing the harassment of Prof. Gene Nichol of the UNC School of Law by a group funded overwhelmingly by Pope. Sue Sturgis has the story at Facing South.

#2 – Flawed as it is, the pluses outweigh the minuses in the congressional budget deal — or so say the experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

#3 – ICYMI, Public Policy Polling had the latest last Thursday with respect to the the attitudes of North Carolinians on Gov. McCrory’s popularity, the 2016 presidential horse race and several other issues.

#4 – John Schmitt has an excellent post on the Center for Economic Policy Research blog summarizing a new report (that he co-authored) about the impact of the Family Medical Leave Act after 20 years on the books. It’s called “Job Protection Isn’t Enough: Why America Needs Paid Parental Leave.”

#5 And finally, the website takepart.com tells us that North Carolina is among the ten states nationally with the fastest growing populations of homeless students. Click here to read and weep about how ours rose an obscene 32% between 2009 and 2012.

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mandelaIt’s a dreary day in the state capital (and, presumably, throughout most of the Old North State), so here are a few stories to help inspire you to fight back against the darkness:

In addition to lots of information about the rapidly improving health of the Affordable Care Act, the good people at the Kaiser Family Foundation have a nice tribute to the late, great Nelson Mandela today on the front page of the organization’s website that explains the interesting connections between the Foundation and Mandela.

Also, in case you missed it, Think Progress ran a story last week that listed the “Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About” – including his strong opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq and his belief that freedom from poverty ought to be a fundamental human right.

Meanwhile, there will be a North Carolina tribute to Mandela this coming Saturday at First Baptist Church in Raleigh. Click here for more information.

And speaking of fighting back, Read More

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Art Pope 3Among the many topics on which Gov. McCrory has made repeated misleading statements and told downright whoppers in recent months, none has been more frequently front and center than unemployment insurance. Time and again, the Guv has claimed that the state did not take away benefits and/or that the reason for the cut off in federal emergency benefits was that it was President Obama’s fault for not granting North Carolina an exemption or allowing the GOP legislature’s changes to be “grandfathered.”

As has been reported repeatedly, however, these claims are simply false. That’s why the Guv has had to issue clarifications and retractions on more than one occasion. The simple truth is that when Congress put extended emergency benefits in place as part of the economic recovery/stimulus law back in 2009, it told states that they could only continue to access those federally-funded benefits if they didn’t cut benefits and eligibility at the state level. This is a standard congressional practice used by leaders of both parties to help make sure that federal initiatives aren’t undercut by free-riding states with no skin in the game. Federal officials repeatedly told North Carolina this and warned them not to cut benefits lest they jeopardize the state’s participation in the federal emergency program.

The state’s response: A big raspberry. Despite the plain warning (and pleas from advocates to merely delay new cuts until 2014 so as not to run afoul of federal law), legislative leaders and Gov. McCrory plunged ahead with unprecedented cuts to benefits and eligibility that were quite possibly the largest in American history. As a result, the federal government was left with no choice but to abide by the congressional mandate and cut North Carolina off July 1.

So why does McCrory keep making the bizarre claim that it was the feds who are responsible for the cuts? We got a hint as to the answer to that question yesterday when State Budget Director Art Pope made his strange appearance at a protest outside his office organized by the NAACP and others.  Read More

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Art Pope 3The North Carolina NAACP and other activist groups will commence a series of informational pickets today to shine more light on the rather amazing breadth and depth of the influence of state budget director, Art Pope. The pickets will take place today at 4:00 p.m. outside two of the chain stores owned by Pope’s Variety Wholesalers, Maxway and Rose’s.

The Maxway event will take place at 1905 Poole Rd. in Raleigh. The Rose’s event will take place  at University Mall, 201-C36 Estes Dr. Chapel Hill.

According to an announcement:

“The informational picket campaign is a statewide effort to raise awareness and demand that Budget Director Pope call for a reversal of extremist laws and policies passed in the 2013 Legislative Session and support the request for a Special Redemption Session of the North Carolina General Assembly to reverse course on two extremist policies, the denial of Medicaid and emergency unemployment benefits that will harm the most vulnerable members of our state.”

Learn more at the event’s Facebook page by clicking here.

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Pat McCrory 2There was some confusion this week as to who was ultimately responsible for the appointment of Pope-Civitas Institute executive director Francis De Luca to the state Ethics Commission. De Luca’s own press release said the appointment was made by the Governor on the recommendation of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. At first blush, this statement seemed to conflict with the terms of the Ethics Act itself, which gives the Governor four appointments (all of which are already filled) and the General Assembly four (two each to the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem).  

The answer appears to lie in the fact that the General Assembly is not currently in session and therefore could not, technically, make a new appointment. In such circumstances, the Ethics Act references another state statute (G.S. 120-122) which vests the authority in the Governor to make the appointment upon the recommendation of the relevant legislative officer.

The bottom line: Things are even more depressing than they originally appeared. The head of a political attack group that produces malicious attack ads is now a member of the Board of the State Ethics Commission and both the Governor and the leader of the state Senate had a hand in making it happen.