Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

3-judge panel appointed in cases over constitutional amendment ballot language

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin has appointed a three-judge panel to review two cases over ballot language for four proposed constitutional amendments.

Judges Forrest Donald Bridges, Thomas H. Lock and Jeffery K. Carpenter will preside over the two lawsuits filed by Gov. Roy Cooper and the North Carolina NAACP and Clean Air Carolina. Bridges is a registered Democrat serving Cleveland and Lincoln counties; Lock is registered to vote as an unaffiliated and serves Harnett, Johnston and Lee counties; and Carpenter is a registered Republican who serves Union County.

There is not yet a hearing set in the cases. Attorneys from all sides argued Tuesday before Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway at hearings for temporary restraining orders to prevent election ballots from being printed with the constitutional amendments on them.

Ridgeway took the restraining order arguments under advisement and did not make a decision. He referred the case to Martin to appoint the three-judge panel because he believed it was a facial constitutional challenge and not an “as applied” challenge, like the plaintiffs argued.

These are the constitutional amendments with ballot language that is being challenged in the two cases: one requiring a photo identification, one that caps the state income tax at 7 percent, one that transfers Cooper’s power to appoint members of state boards and commissions to the General Assembly and another that strips his power to appoint judicial vacancies and also gives it, although in a somewhat convoluted fashion, to the General Assembly.

18 CVS 9805 Order Assigning 3JP by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

18 CVS 9806 Order Appointing 3JP by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

Environment

Disorganized, unrealistic and ready to spend tax dollars: Jim Womack wants to take Oil and Gas Commission on expensive field trip

Areas targeted for fracking: The Dan River Basin (Stokes and Rockingham counties); the Deep River Basin (11 counties in central and southern NC) and the small Davie Basin (Yadkin and Davie counties) Map: NC DEQ

Jim Womack must believe he’s playing with house money.

The chairman of the NC Oil and Gas Commission, Womack yesterday proposed several expensive outlays of taxpayer funds that have no legislative appropriations or resource commitments from other state agencies.

First, he suggested that all nine commission members travel 1,150 miles round-trip to Bradford County, Pa., for three to four days next spring to observe fracking operations and speak to residents. Why Bradford  County, which is on the border with New York state? Because Womack, told the commission, he “knows people” there and is friends with one of its Republican county commissioners.

If a majority of oil and gas members were to make the trip, it would qualify as a public meeting. Minutes would have to be taken — plus all receipts of expenses covered by tax dollars would be public record.

Womack said that several years ago Sens. Bob Rucho and Mike Hager had “called him on the carpet” for not taking the Mining and Energy Commission on a field trip to fracking operations. Womack went on his own to Pennsylvania. “You can visualize how the rules come into play,” he enthused. “It was great to go to an active site.”

Commissioner Rebecca Wyhof of Lee County said she wanted to ensure that any such trip is “not one-sided.”

The two and a half hour meeting, of which 20 percent was spent scheduling meetings into 2019, (thus consuming the time of the five environmental department employees whose job was to attend) accomplished little. Yet there were indications that Womack either has an inside track on state funding or simply doesn’t know what certain activities cost.

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Commentary, What's Race Got To Do With It?

It’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day: Here’s why that’s important

Image: www.womendadvancenc.org

By Antionette Kerr

Why are we still telling Black Women to work twice as hard?

It’s time for equal pay

The women in my family set high standards for what “hard work” felt and looked like. In many ways these lessons gave me strength and inspiration. I have a tremendous amount of respect for their wisdom and I credit them for my fierce work ethic. But lately, I’ve started to challenge the old adage that as a Black Woman I have to “work twice as hard” to be considered successful.

Demanding equal pay is especially important for communities of color who have been told that they had to work “twice as hard,” and be “twice as good” to be successful. This belief is so widely accepted that even former first Lady Michelle Obama advances it in speeches across America.

I echo the thoughtful sentiments of Guardian writer, Britni Danielle. “There’s one mantra many black parents drill into their children’s heads throughout their life: be twice as good. It goes that as black folks in America, we’ve got to work twice as hard to get half as far as our white counterparts,” she wrote. “Some semblance of this speech has been handed down for generations, and given our history in the US – forced into chattel slavery, oppressed under Jim Crow, and racially stigmatized to this day – it’s proven itself to be true.”

This is especially ringing true for women of color. According to equalpaytoday.org , “Each year, Equal Pay Day for All is held in April, but when we look at the wage gap for women of color, the gap is far greater. When compared to all men, women earn $.80 (cents) on the $1. When compared to White, non-Hispanic men, Black/African American women earn only $.63 (cents) on the $1. This means the typical Black woman must work until August 2018 to be paid what the typical White man was paid at the end of December 2017.”

The “work twice as hard” speech has become a rite of passage in many communities of color. Read more

News

Senators taking aim at insurance companies behind bail bond industry

If you’ve been following Policy Watch’s coverage of the for-profit cash bail industry and the movement to reform it, you’ll want to check out this week’s story on bail industry backers in the insurance industry from The Marshall Project.

From the piece:

Two senators want to shine some light on the business. On Friday, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent a letter to 22 insurance companies requesting details of their finances and their relationships with the bail bond agents they underwrite.

The piece also goes into the way in which the movement to eliminate cash bail is impacting what has, for decades, been a growing industry.

After years of uninterrupted growth, bail bond premiums fell more than 3 percent in 2017 compared to the year before. The report forecast more decline as more laws change and lawsuits prevail.

“Ultimately, in states where reform measures significantly diminish — or eliminate entirely — the need for defendants to post cash bail, the business of bail bond agents and bail bond insurance specialists as currently constituted will likely cease to exist,” the report said.

Read the full piece here.

 

News

How to watch tomorrow’s sold out Crucial Conversation on the constitutional amendments

Tomorrow’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation, North Carolina’s constitutional amendments blitz: What should be done?” featuring former legislative counsel Gerry Cohen, Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr. and “Tuesdays with Tillis” activist Karen Ziegler is a sell-out. Due to space constraints we’ve had to cut off registrations.

Happily, there is still a way to watch the event — both later and as it happens.

To do so, head to the NC Policy Watch Facebook page a few minutes after 12:00 noon tomorrow, Wednesday August 8.

Here is a description of the event:

In the final harried days of the 2018 legislative session, North Carolina lawmakers took the unprecedented step of voting to place six constitutional amendments on the November ballot. The amendments deal with a wide-ranging array of subjects: the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife; the rights of crime victims; changes to the state board of elections and the transfer of appointment powers from the governor to the legislature; selection for judicial vacancies; a cap on the state income tax and requiring a photo ID to vote.

In the weeks that have followed, a growing chorus of critics has emerged to decry the amendments as individually flawed and, collectively, a massive and deceptive power grab by legislative leaders. Unlike virtually all previous amendments in recent decades, the critics note, five of the six amendments lack basic implementing language that would even allow voters to understand what they are voting on.

So where do things stand? What would the amendments really do and not do? What will happen next if any of them were to pass?

Join us as we tackle these question and others with an extremely knowledgeable panel of experts, including:

  • State Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr. of Durham
  • Former North Carolina General Assembly Special Counsel, Gerry Cohen
  • Karen Ziegler, leader of the Tuesdays with Tillis protests

Hope to see you — at least virtually — tomorrow!