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N.C. Rep. Larry HallNorth Carolina Democrats have been gerrymandered into a small minority for the upcoming session of the North Carolina General Assembly, but they sent a strong signal yesterday with their selection of a new House Minority Leader that they will not be rolling over in front of the expected conservative onslaught.

Rep. Larry Hall of Durham was an obvious and encouraging choice (though colleagues like Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville and Deborah Ross of Raleigh would have been eminently capable as well). Hall is a decorated Marine Corps vet, a smart lawyer, a gifted public speaker, and a committed progressive. While he and his colleagues will have few inside-the-General Assembly tools at their disposal to combat the conservative majority, his selection spurs hope that progressives will be developing principled and creative ways to shift the debate outside of the Legislative Building. Hall is a leader that progressive North Carolinians should watch closely and get to know.

North Carolina is not yet the “fattest” state, but obesity continues to be – pardon the pun – an enormous and growing health problem. These new data from the Centers for Disease Control show that our state obesity rate now stands at a disheatening 29.1%.

While not as bad as the situation in the nation’s worst state (Surprise! It’s Mississippi at 34.9%), this number (which comes from 2011) does put us in the bottom third. It also marks an increase since 2010 — a year in which the CDC reported on a stunning overall growth in obesity over the last two decades — both here and around the country.

Unfortunately, as in so many other areas in which there is a crying need for intentional public solutions, the North Carolina General Assembly is headed backwards. During the recently adjourned legislative session, lawmakers eliminated funding for the state Health and Wellness Trust Fund (for which obesity prevention was a top priority) and instead replaced it with a one-time, one-year state appropriation.

One of the most powerful people in North Carolina politics and lawmaking resigned last night. Charles Thomas, the Chief of Staff, close confidant and roommate of the Speaker of the House quickly resigned after being confronted by Raleigh’s News & Observer about a romantic, extramarital relationship he’s apparently been engaged in with a lobbyist for one of the state’s most powerful special interest groups.

It seems likely that more information will come out today, so there’s no reason to speculate further about or dwell on the details.

But it does seem worth noting that this episode provides another reminder of something we all should remember: Humans are imperfect — especially when it comes to our intimate and personal relationships with other humans.  As such, we need to tread very lightly when it comes to such matters.

Let’s hope that, if anything comes out of this episode it’s this: All North Carolinians are reminded that no one has a monopoly on morality in this area and that we would all do well to bring an extra measure of humility to any discussions thereof. Hopefully, this will even include those people — like the man in question — who’ve been seeking to impose one narrow version of morality when it come to intimate personal relationships of late in the matter of a certain constitutional amendment.

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Protesters who visited the General Assembly this morning to call attention to the latest wasteful special legislative session were happy to find out that neither House Speaker Thom Tillis’ staff nor the legislative police had any intention of reprising their absurd and unlawful decision from February to kick them out of the public space on the second  floor – a place where Tillis was only too happy to chat with conservative protesters in the past.

Let’s hope the decision to let protesters proceed and drop off thousands of petition signatures at the Speaker’s office was a result of Tillis’ people coming to their senses on at least this one matter and not just a byproduct of another rather remarkable fact, i.e. the fact that Tillis didn’t even bother to show up!

You got that? After putting scores of people — building staff, security people, legislative assistants and lawmakers themselves – through the hassle of traveling to Raleigh for a special session that lasted all of five minutes, Speaker Tillis — the man behind the whole thing – couldn’t be bothered to attend.

They’re baaaack!!! Another month, another mysterious special session from the right-wingers running the General Assembly.

Despite ”assurances” that nothing of substance will take place, state lawmakers will return yet again to Raleigh next Monday April 23rd at noon for a special legislative session. As you will recall, it was during such a session in January that lawmakers adjourned themselves and then immediately reconvened in the middle of the night to take revenge on the N.C. Association of Educators.  

Happily, as with the last special session in February (the one in which Speaker Tillis’ people selectively enforced a vague rule to remove peaceful and silent demonstrators from a public space), demonstrators will be on hand to voice their opposition to the General Assembly’s reactionary policies and to make sure that nothing untoward takes place without a witness. 

If you can, please take a few minutes out of your day on Monday to join with caring and thoughtful people to help hold the out-of-control General Assembly accountable at a “Rein them in Rally.” 

When: Monday, April 23 at 11:00 A.M.

Where: In front of the General Assembly building on Jones Street in Raleigh.

For more information and to RSVP, please visit the rally website. See you on Monday!