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An editorial in this morning’s edition of the Greensboro News & Record rightfully echoes many of the themes in Tuesday’s edition of the N.C. Policy Watch Weekly Briefing in its critique of new rules governing access to the state Legislative Building entitled “Protests muzzled.” As the N&R notes:

“Demonstrators took a practical precaution when they entered the legislative building Monday evening. They taped their mouths shut.

How else could they make sure they didn’t ‘act in a manner that will imminently disturb the General Assembly, one of its houses, or its committees, members, or staff in the performance of their duties,’ as prohibited by the new rules approved last week?

….the overly sensitive definition of disturbance and the reference to an ‘imminent’ disturbance leave too much to personal whim. Interpretation can be as strict as someone in authority wants it to be. When it comes to dealing with people who convey dissatisfaction with the authorities, the rules might be applied very strictly indeed.

These rules tell the public there will be little tolerance for verbal expression by visitors. They had better just remain silent from the time they enter until they leave — and the sooner they leave, the better….

Of course demonstrators should not be allowed to create a real disturbance in the legislative building. They should not make so much noise that committee meetings or floor sessions are disrupted. They should not block anyone’s way.

That kind of real trouble occurred rarely, if at all, last year. But it bothered lawmakers just the same to have people come into their building and protest their policies.

Except, of course, it’s not their building. It belongs to the people, who have a right to express themselves about policies that affect them. When they come in, they shouldn’t have to tape their mouths — not even figuratively.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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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.

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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.

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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.