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Voter-ID-signToday’s Winston-Salem Journal makes clear one again what advocates for open government have been saying for a long time: state lawmakers ought to be allowed behind absurd claims of privacy and immunity when it comes to the records of their communications as they went about the business of passing the nation’s most restrictive voting law. As the new editorial aptly notes:

“It’s bad enough that our politicians choose their own voters through their redistricting monopoly, but last year the General Assembly passed a so-called ‘voter identification’ bill that will clearly suppress who among us even gets to vote. Read More

Martin NesbittThere’s truly dreadful news tonight that one of the ablest members of the North Carolina General Assembly, Senator Martin Nesbitt, has died just days after announcing that he was seriously ill. It’s a grave blow to the state and we are all worse off for his passing.

There will be time in the days ahead for tributes to this wonderfully intelligent, caring and good-hearted man, but if you don’t know that much about him and would like to get a feel for who he was, go to the search function on this website and just type in his name. Upon doing so, you’ll find a host of articles in which he was featured — usually as a rare voice of reason in the state’s increasingly troubled policy debates in recent years.

When I did that, I was happy to find this post I wrote back in 2007 soon after this blog was first launched. In addition to featuring the now youthful looking photo of the senator that you see here, the post was a tribute to his willingness to stand up and speak the truth on an unpopular issue. I remember hearing at the time that he’d seen the post and appreciated it, so I offer it again tonight as one small and very fond remembrance:

Martin Nesbitt: Keeping us coming back

Martin Nesbitt: Keeping us coming back Read More

Puppy millsFew developments are surprising these days in the through-the-looking glass world of the North Carolina General Assembly, but the recent developments surrounding “puppy mills” legislation takes a very large cake.

As was reported last week in multiple places, one of the North Carolina Senate’s most powerful members, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, issued a statement in which he said that the Senate would not move legislation on this subject in 2014 because of its objection to the “tactics” of bill supporters — specifically the fact that a supporter meeting with Senator Bill Rabon openly recorded the Senator’s inflammatory comments on the subject and then made them public.

This was apparently not an idle threat by Apodaca. Yesterday, N.C. Policy Watch obtained an email sent by another lawmaker (Senator Bill Cook of Beaufort County) to a concerned constituent in which he recited Apodaca’s threat verbatim (see the bottom of this post for the full text). Read More

ICYMI, the lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer is a good one. It explains — much as NC Policy Watch Courts and Law reporter Sharon McCloskey did in this story yesterday — why the claims of legislative leaders of that “legislative immunity” somehow insulates them from disclosing the real reasons behind the voter suppression bill passed last session are completely bogus. After exploring the recent hubbub surrounding the bizarre comments of Senator Bill Rabon in the puppy mill controversy, the editorial puts it this way:

“The legislators say they are protected by ‘legislative immunity,’ which they claim not only shields them from ‘arrest or civil process for what they do in legislative proceedings,’ but also having to reveal the conversations they had during the crafting of that legislation.

Are they right? Read More

As Clayton Henkel notes below, the General Assembly returns to Raleigh today to override the Governor’s vetoes of a pair of bills dealing with immigrant workers and drug testing of public benefits applicants.

In response, the good folks at Public School First NC released a statement this morning that highlights what lawmakers ought to be doing now that they’re back in the Capital City:

PUBLIC SCHOOLS FIRST NC URGES LEGISLATURE TO REINSTATE FUNDS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
Despite Promises of Job Growth, Teaching Positions Cut Across North Carolina

Raleigh, NC—September 3, 2013— As the General Assembly convenes for a special session, Public Schools First NC urges legislators to acknowledge the drastic budget impacts already, affecting public education and to use this opportunity to restore funding. The predicted consequences of these cuts—the loss of teacher and teacher assistant positions, increases to class size, inadequate instructional supplies, and the trimming of special programs—comes on the heels of promises by elected officials to promote job growth. Read More