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.

Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

NC, Thomas Farr nomination featured in new video “Trump Blocking Black Women Will Ruin Your Life”

Jouelzy, a popular author, commentator, and digital personality who works to inform and empower an international audience through weekly videos on cultural and lifestyle issues that impact women of color — women who sometimes use the descriptor #SmartBrownGirls — (click here to check out her website) has produced a powerful video about the ongoing conservative effort to remake the federal courts.

It’s great to see that the effort to awaken progressive voices to the fight over the courts has made this kind of progress. Check it out below.

Commentary

Class-size “fixes” likely to come up short

According to a recent report, members of the General Assembly are “in serious negotiations to work out a deal” to address the self-inflicted class-size fiasco. As a refresher, under current law, General Assembly members are requiring school districts dramatically reduce class sizes in grades K-3, but have failed to provide the necessary funding. To meet the unfunded mandate, districts are having to expand class sizes in higher grades, and reduce offerings of “enhancement” courses such as art, physical education, music, and technology. Supposedly, the lawmakers will soon be presenting a plan to address the problems they have created.

Fixing this problem is incredibly easy and can be done with no additional state funds. Lawmakers simply need to repeal the unfunded mandate and re-align class-size requirements with actual funding levels. Such a bill would preserve funding for enhancement courses. Districts like New Hanover could continue their practice of using class-size flexibility to direct smaller classes to its most at-risk students, and districts like Warren County could continue to offer incredibly effective Pre-K courses in its school building.

Luckily, such a bill exists. SB 703 aligns class-size requirements with current funding levels, preserves funding for enhancement classes, and costs nothing. Around this time last year, the effectively same bill passed the House unanimously.

Unfortunately, Senate leadership opposes this plan. As a result, General Assembly members are negotiating to “work out a deal.” What they won’t say is whether they will actually fix the problem they created.

As a result, speculation abounds as to what legislation might emerge from these negotiations. Rumors around Raleigh have largely centered on three general approaches: Read more

Commentary

Charlotte Observer does the math: What the Utilities Commission should say to Duke’s rate increase request

In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer has an interesting take on the Duke Energy Carolinas rate increase request. The editorial does the math and explains why the proposed 17 percent increase should be pared to 2.6%. Here’s the conclusion:

“Duke wants to raise bills by $647 million per year. About $336 million of that is to clean up decades of coal ash storage that culminated in one of the nation’s worst spills, into the Dan River four years ago Friday. The company knew its ash was a potential hazard for years. Shareholders, not customers, should pay for Duke’s decision to deal with its waste in the cheapest, not most responsible, way possible all this time.

Subtract the $336 million and Duke’s remaining request is at $311 million.

Much of that money can come from the tax cut the company is about to enjoy courtesy of Congress and President Trump. The Utilities Commission’s Public Staff estimates that Duke will save about $210 million per year on its federal tax bill going forward. Duke made its request months before the tax bill passed and that money should go straight to the company’s needed $647 million.

Put the $210 million toward Duke’s after-coal-ash total of $311 million and Duke’s request stands at $101 million.

Utilities commissioners should dissect Duke’s request and, if found to be warranted, grant that $101 million hike. That would result in an increase on the typical residential bill of about 2.6 percent or about $35 per year. That’s an amount that both Duke and the average customer could live with.

One other needed change: As part of its request, Duke wants to raise the fixed charge on bills from $11.80 per month to $17.79 per month, a jump of more than 50 percent. The economics don’t justify that, and it would be an especially large burden on the low-income customers who, incidentally, typically use less electricity.

Duke has provided reliable electricity at relatively low cost for years. It has made a lot of money, too. The Utilities Commission should maintain that balance.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary, News

Remembering MLK on the 50 year anniversary of the Memphis garbage workers strike

Cross-posted from the good folks at the AFL-CIO of NC:

February 1 National Moment of Silence

On February 1, 1968, Memphis sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker huddled in the back of their truck to seek shelter from a storm. Suddenly, the truck’s compactor malfunctioned, trapping Cole and Walker and crushing them to death.

The tragedy triggered the strike of the city’s 1,300 sanitation workers. They had warned the city about dangerous equipment but were ignored. They were fed up with poverty wages and racial discrimination. They walked off the job and marched under the banner: I AM A MAN. On February 1, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the accident that killed Cole and Walker, we will observe a moment of silence to honor their memory and sacrifice, as we pick up the mantle from the 1968 strikers in the ongoing fight for racial and economic justice.

Pledge to join us on February 1, 2018 at 1 pm EST (or at a time of your choosing), for a national Moment of Silence.

Find or host a local event, or join us for the Facebook Live event on February 1.

Learn more at https://iam2018.org/.

February 4 event at International Civil Rights Center & Museum

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum (ICRCM) in Greensboro, North Carolina, will honor the role of the courageous Memphis City sanitation workers whose strike in 1968 fused the labor and civil rights struggles for social justice, featuring William “Bill” Lucy, the 2018 ICRCM Alston/Jones International Civil & Human Rights Award recipient and the retired International Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

What: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Memphis “I AM A MAN” Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968
Where: International Civil Rights Center and Museum, 134 S Elm St, Greensboro, NC 27401
When: Sun, February 4, 2018, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST
Free tickets: reserve your seats online

Bill Lucy stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in civil rights struggles and Nelson Mandela in opposition to apartheid. Come join the conversation as he discusses the Memphis sanitation workers strike and the power of labor unions.

North Carolina State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan and Triad Central Labor Council President John Crawford will also speak.

This event is free and open to the public.