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This morning’s Greensboro News & Record lets the Tea Party wing of the General Assembly (and Rep. Bert Jones in particular) have it this morning. In an editorial entitled “April Foolishness,” the N&R juxtaposes the convention champions’ supposed fondness for limits on power with the General Assembly’s recent attacks on local government:

We thought the state legislature convened in Raleigh.

Last week, it apparently met in Fantasy Land.

How else to explain the House Judiciary I committee debating for an hour whether North Carolina should join the call for a “Convention of the States” to discuss amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would limit the federal government’s power?

“I think there is a wide agreement among Americans that we need to place some constraints on the federal government,” said Rep. Bert Jones, the Reidsville Republican who sponsored House Bill 321, one of two bills calling for such a convention. “Are we going to depend on Congress to say, ‘It’s time to limit ourselves’?”

The convention would reconsider amendments involving term limits for Congress, fiscal restraints and limits on “the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.” “I look at this as an intervention of the states, just as if you have a drug-addled family member,” Jones said, sounding proud as punch.

That’s rich. Even as state lawmakers overreach with constant meddling into the affairs of cities and counties — changing the makeup of local boards and councils, including Greensboro’s, and making partisan power grabs for airports and water authorities — the political pot has the gall to call the kettle black and grouse about “federal overreach.”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here. Would that lawmakers had before passing their outrageous assault on voters in Wake County.

Commentary
Hisemug

Senator Ralph Hise

Just when you thought things might be calming down over on the right-wing fringe, lookie what turned up amongst the flood of bills introduced last week in the North Carolina Senate: a fun little proposal to basically eviscerate the United States government.

The proposal by Senator Ralph Hise of western North Carolina would call for a federal constitutional convention for the purpose of enacting a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment would purport to restore “State sovereignty in our Constitutional Republic by providing State Legislatures Countermand authority.”

In case that’s not ringing a bell, what Hise means by “countermand authority” is the following:

“State Legislatures in the several States shall have the authority to Countermand and rescind any Congressional Statute, Judicial decision, Executive Order, Treaty, government agency’s regulatory ruling, or any other government or non-government mandate (including excessive spending and credit) imposed on them when in the opinion of 60 percent of State Legislatures the law or ruling adversely affects their States’ interest. When the Countermand threshold has been reached, the law or ruling shall be immediately and automatically nullified and repealed. This Countermand authority shall also apply to existing laws and rulings.”

Coming up next: proposals to invalidate the results of the Civil War. Stay tuned!

Commentary

As reported on N.C. Policy Watch recently, some advocates on the far right — including North Carolina’s own Lt. Governor — have been pushing the radical idea of late that it’s time for a second American constitutional convention.

For those who haven’t given the idea much thought, the dangers that would accompany such a move may not be readily apparent. Thankfully, veteran national policy analyst Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained them in a recent column for the Washington Post.

As Greenstein noted, such an event could be a disastrous free-for-all:

The Constitution sets no rules for how a constitutional convention would work. What standards determine whether 34 states have called for a convention? Do all resolutions that state legislatures have ever passed count — even if they called for conventions on very different topics, or were passed 50 or 100 years ago, or were later rescinded, as some have been? Oklahoma, for instance, passed a resolution in 1976 calling for a convention but rescinded it in 2009, citing concerns about throwing the Constitution wide open to unknown changes; some proponents argue that Oklahoma should still count anyway. Can that be right? The Constitution is silent on all of these issues.

That’s just the start.  If a convention were called, how many delegates would each state get, and how would they be selected? How long could the convention last? The Constitution provides no guidance on those questions either.

He continued: Read More

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Among the bills filed at the state legislature today was a resolution that would put North Carolina on a small list of states seeking to reconvene the Constitutional Convention of the States.

Yes, that Constitutional Convention. The last time they met was back in 1787.

The North Carolina resolution (click here to read) is part of a recent cause among far-right conservatives to seek financial limits on the federal government.

The North Carolina resolution makes no bones about the lawmakers’ disregard for Washington, finding that “the federal government has ceased to exist under a proper interpretation of the Constitutional of the United States.”

Read More

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An American hero has died.

It’s not often I’ll post here about someone not based in North Carolina. But Billy Frank Jr. was a titan of a man whose life deserves wide celebration and remembrance. If you knew Billy, then you know why. If you weren’t aware of his life and work, I’d like to take a few minutes to explain.

Where I come from out West, the treaties Indian tribes signed with the United States government were largely made in peace. In exchange for all of the land that now makes up western Washington, 2.2 million acres, tribes like Billy’s Nisqually tribe signed agreements with Gov. Isaac Stevens to preserve their way of life.

It was a pretty sweet deal for the settlers: they got rich, fertile land upon which they could prosper. All the tribes really wanted: to keep fishing and hunting, feeding their families and preserving a culture that had been around since time immemorial. By signing these treaties, the tribes were codifying those rights into law: Article 6, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says that treaties are the “supreme law of the land,” on a par with the constitution itself.

But soon, those rights were violated by settlers who wanted to take all the fish and game for themselves, and by state governments who were less than interested in honoring treaty commitments.

What the Pacific Northwest needed was a leader with the passion, charisma and guts to stand up for what was right. Luckily, it had Billy.

The Martin Luther King of Northwest coast native rights was arrested more than 50 times during the so-called “fish wars” of the 60s and 70s for acts of civil disobedience. He was beaten, shot at, slandered and spit on, but he never let it embitter him.

Billy was larger than life, too. A gregarious, friendly man with the firm handshake of a lifelong fisherman, you always knew he was in the room and were always glad of it. It says something that, though he was in his 80s, his passing has stunned many of us. Billy Frank Sr. lived to be 104. I assumed we’d have Billy around for another decade or two, at least. Even his political opponents largely loved Billy, and those that didn’t had to respect him.

Billy was one of the reasons I went to work for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, an organization he chaired for more than 30 years. Besides his passion for treaty rights, Billy understood as few do that healthy fish runs require paying close attention to ecological preservation.

Without habitat, fish and elk have no way to sustain themselves — and neither do we. Billy was a leader with vision who always saw the big picture. He saw the connections between social justice for communities of color and environmental protection. He was passionate about building a better future for native youth — and for everyone.

Up until his last days, Billy was working to make sure that his kids, and yours, and theirs, and theirs — and however many “theirs” you want to attach on the end — would have a healthy planet that would support wild salmon. He was working to protect the sacred commitments that in turn protect the communities he loved.

If you care about the U.S. Constitution, you should care about Billy Frank. If you’re concerned with honoring oaths and the dignity of keeping your word, you should be glad he lived. If you fight for social justice in any capacity, you had a fellow traveler. If you’re concerned about the fate of the planet we’re leaving to our children, you owe him a debt.

And if you have a beating heart in your chest, as God is my witness, you would have loved him.