Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: State Senate guilty of “felony-level fraud”

The Fayetteville Observer let loose with some real, on-the-mark haymakers this weekend in a scathing takedown of last week’s inadequate effort by North Carolina Senate leaders to respond to the GenX water pollution crisis. This is from “Senate GenX response is a dangerous fraud”:

“At first we thought we were witnessing a miracle. Imagine: N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, barely a month after refusing to consider a bipartisan, unanimously passed House bill funding a stepped-up response to GenX pollution, turns around and pushes a Senate version of the bill that allocates even more money to the project. A stunning turnabout for the state’s champion of deregulating just about everything.

And then we looked at what’s in the bill. Turns out it’s felony-level fraud. It’s also yet another assault on the state Department of Environmental Quality and a plan to further abdicate responsibility for the health and safety of the North Carolina residents who get their drinking water from the Cape Fear River or from wells in polluted countryside around the Chemours plant on the Cumberland-Bladen county line.”

After noting that the Senate bill basically told DEQ officials to get lost on key aspects of responding to the crisis (by, for instance, failing to fund adequate equipment to test for GenX and other emerging contaminants, pushing a bunch of cash to a crony of Senate leader Phil Berger who spent years fighting environmental protection before being been installed at UNC-Chapel Hill and making the money that is in the bill a “one-time” expenditure), the editorial concludes this way:

“And then the grand frosting on the cake: In the next fiscal year, the Senate wants to cut another $1 million out of the DEQ’s already inadequate budget.

This constitutes political fraud on a grand scale and is the most blatant statement we’ve yet seen from the Senate and its powerful leader that they have no real interest in protecting the health and safety of their constituents. The Senate GenX bill makes it clear that Berger and the rest of his Senate leadership are out to protect the interests of big business — and big contributors — and that they really don’t see any problem with the dumping of dangerous wastes into rivers, streams and groundwater that are the source of drinking water for millions of North Carolina residents.

For decades, this state’s voters have shrugged away concerns about pollution, as have our lawmakers. But now they’re confronting something that may be dangerous in even minuscule amounts, something that can’t readily be filtered out of the water supply. The public response to GenX is new and different for North Carolina. Residents of this region want the state to be on their side, to protect them from this threat. The Senate’s cynical response is deeply disappointing. And if the Senate doesn’t get serious, it may come back to haunt Senate Republicans on Election Day.”

Commentary

General Assembly’s class-size “fix” a mixed bag

This afternoon, the General Assembly has finally revealed its plan for addressing the unfunded class-size mandate. As a reminder, under current law, General Assembly members are requiring school districts dramatically reduce class sizes in grades K-3 in the next school year, but have failed to provide the necessary funding. To meet the unfunded mandate, districts would have to expand class sizes in higher grades or reduce offerings of “enhancement” courses such as art, physical education, music, and technology.

The General Assembly’s proposed solution is a significant improvement over the status quo, but doesn’t appear to fully address the concerns of public school districts. Additionally, the bill has been paired with several non-education provisions related to the use of Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) mitigation funds and the composition of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

For public schools, the bill does the following: Read more

Commentary

The top reason for attending this Saturday’s Moral March on Raleigh

https://naacpnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Moral-March-single.jpgThere are a lot of good reasons to attend this Saturday’s HKonJ “People’s  Assembly” / Moral March on Raleigh — the dreadful state of American and North Carolina politics, the crucial importance of staying engaged and connected to the fight for justice, the chance to hear an inspiring messages from lots of great speakers, including the new head of the North Carolina NAACP (Rev. T. Anthony Spearman), and even the predictions of mild, springlike (if a tad damp) weather.

But for my money, the main reason to attend is evident in what event organizers have made the theme for this year’s event: “Taking the Resistance to the Ballot Box.”

If ever there was a year in which it’s critical to urge all North Carolinians to vote and, indeed, to devote a sizable chunk of one’s time over the next nine months to such efforts, it’s 2018.

Hope to see you there on Saturday morning!

Commentary

Join us next Friday for lunch with Professor Peter Edelman

Join us next Friday February 16 as Prof. Peter Edelman discusses his new book, Not a Crime to be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America

Register here

In addition to exposing racially biased policing, the Justice Department’s Ferguson Report exposed how fines and fees for minor crimes often proved too expensive for Ferguson’s largely poor, African American population and resulted in jail sentences for thousands of people.

As former staffer to Robert F. Kennedy and current Georgetown law professor Peter Edelman explains in Not a Crime to be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America, Ferguson is everywhere in America today. Through money bail systems, fees and fines, strictly enforced laws and regulations against behavior including trespassing and public urination that largely affect the homeless, and the substitution of prisons and jails for the mental hospitals that have traditionally served the impoverished, in one of the richest countries on Earth we have effectively made it a crime to be poor.

Edelman, who famously resigned from the administration of Bill Clinton over welfare “reform,” connects the dots between these policies and others including school discipline in poor communities, child support policies affecting the poor, public housing ordinances, addiction treatment, and the specter of public benefits fraud to paint a picture of a mean-spirited, retributive system that seals whole communities into inescapable cycles of poverty.

Peter Edelman is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches constitutional law and poverty law and is faculty director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. On the faculty since 1982, he has also served in all three branches of government. During President Clinton’s first term he was Counselor to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and then Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

***Note: Copies of Not a Crime to be Poor will be available for purchase and Prof. Edelman will be signing books after his talk.***

Don’t miss this important and timely event!  

When: Friday, February 16, 2018 at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $15, admission includes a box lunch. Scholarships available.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Can’t make it to Raleigh? Prof. Edelman will also be appearing earlier on the same day for a breakfast event at the Durham office of MDC.

Click here for more information.

Commentary, Defending Democracy

The best editorial of the weekend: This Supreme Court ruling was a “no-brainer”

The Winston-Salem Journal was on the money over the weekend with its assessment of the recent state Supreme Court ruling striking down the General Assembly’s heavy-handed power grab vis a vis the State Board of Elections. This is from the editorial:

“Kudos to the state Supreme Court for striking down an attempt by the Republican legislature to revamp the state elections board, part of a legislative movement to weaken gubernatorial powers after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory lost his seat to Democrat Roy Cooper in 2016.

Shortly after McCrory’s loss, Republicans rushed through legislation altering the make-up of election boards on the state and county levels and limiting the governor’s ability to appoint members, a power that the governor’s office had possessed for decades before Cooper’s election. The make-up of these election boards could influence voting hours and poll locations in this year’s elections.

Especially onerous was the legislature’s requirement that election boards be composed of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans — a recipe for gridlock and stalemate.

‘In a 4-3 ruling that breaks down along the court’s partisan lines, the justices found that a law passed in 2017 that merged the state Board of Elections with the state Ethics Commission and limited Cooper’s power to appoint a majority of its members violated the state Constitution’s separation of powers clause,’ the N&O reported….

Voting rights advocates embraced the decision from the state’s highest court.

‘Today’s ruling rejects a law that amounted to an unlawful power grab by the North Carolina General Assembly,’ said Tomas Lopez, the director of Democracy NC. ‘The public deserves a political system that respects its will. We welcome this decision and are hopeful that it will dissuade our leaders from future attempts to entrench their power.’

He’s right. The legislature’s heavy-handed legislation was not fair to the governor or fair to the voters, who elected Cooper expecting him to have the same powers and responsibilities as his predecessor.

In fact, it’s a no-brainer. The legislature, regardless of which party controls it, shouldn’t have the right to subtract gubernatorial powers if its party’s candidate loses.”

Amen to that. Click here to read the entire editorial.