Thank you for your patience; hopefully this will be the last time I'll have to make all y'all wait until Friday for your weekly hit of ICYMI! We've got a lot to cover, so grab a snack and your favorite beverage!
Once again, it's fortuitous that the weekly roundup ended up on a Friday; if it had been on Wednesday there wouldn't have been as much to talk about regarding the gerrymandering lawsuit– Common Cause v Rucho– heard in the Supreme Court this week. If you need to catch up, read Patti's wonderful and wonderfully salty March 21 redistricting post and read a breakdown of the cases here.
It's true that up to this point, partisan gerrymandering has been legal and used by both parties, and that, constitutionally speaking, drawing districts– and resolving conflicts that arise in the process– is the state's job. That's part of why the Supreme Court remanded a partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin back to its state last year, stalling ours in the process. That is the grossly oversimplified version of Chief Justice John Roberts' viewpoint and the point the defendants made in their arguments on Tuesday: that they, the Republican lawmakers who drew districts "to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because" they did "not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats", did nothing wrong and can't be told by SCOTUS that what they did was wrong, because once SCOTUS enters the business of deciding which party should win which election, they will have first overstepped their duties as justices (and not legislators) and second have opened the floodgates for suit after suit by candidates contesting every election they did not win.
But one of my least favorite phrases in the world is "that's the way we've always done it", and Common Cause and the League of Women Voters agree. They and their attorneys argued for establishing reasonable standards against which to weigh whether to even consider these cases. Emmet Bondurant, attorney for Common Cause, "acknowledged the legislature has wide discretion to draw district lines even with some partisan influence. But they cross the line, he said, when they dictate electoral outcomes or favor a class of candidates."
Allison Riggs, attorney for the League of Women Voters, went a step further and "proposed a three-part 'vote dilution test' courts could use to screen partisan gerrymandering cases before deciding on their merits in an effort to avoid being inundated by lawsuits."
Makes sense to me. In any case (pun intended), the system Republicans in North Carolina have created to allow politicians choose their voters instead of the other way around is wildly undemocratic. SCOTUS now has the chance to send a clear message to Republicans going into 2020 that this behavior will not be tolerated, not when our democracy is already so very fragile.
By the way, get a load of Rep. David Lewis' defense of his own statement quoted above. If your blood pressure is already too high, allow me to summarize his and Rep. Ralph Hise's thoughts: "Yeah, we know what we said and we said it on purpose. We drew gerrymandered districts on racial lines– because the Voting Rights Act told us to– but apparently we did it wrong, so we learned our lesson and used election data to redraw the new even more badly gerrymandered districts. But it's not illegal, so we don't even know why Democrats are getting their panties in a twist."
And that, my friends, is what we call putting sprinkles on sh...poop.
The court isn't likely to issue a decision anytime soon, so while you wait, give a read to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith's take on the issue here.
Last year on May 1st, 19,000 educators, parents, and citizens marched on the legislature to demand more support for public schools from state lawmakers, and they're planning to do it again this May. Check their Facebook page for details!
The right-leaning Carolina Journal came out with a set of predictions regarding the special elections coming up in NC-09 and NC-03. While the questions the article poses are worthwhile and the candidates– all of them– should be prepared to answer them, the article accuses Democrats of being much more short-sighted than they are:
"Democrats will certainly try to make Donald Trump the main issue again. And in the 9th, the district stretching from Charlotte along the South Carolina border to Fayetteville, Democrats will attempt to make it largely about the election-fraud charges that prompted the new election in the first place. I don’t think these efforts will be particularly successful. Political trends shift. Attention spans wander. Trump remains a central feature of the political landscape, to be sure, but that landscape now contains other compelling personalities and events."
This is off-base. Democrats have learnt by now that running on a platform of "At least I'm not the other guy" or "At least I won't do that" isn't actually what their voters want from them. That is precisely why we've seen the national Democratic party create and campaign for their "explicit socialism". We all realize it's time for real, rapid change. No, 2019 won't be just like 2018, but as I've been saying this whole time, this is– has to be– a blue tide, not just a blue wave.
The Durham-Orange Light Rail project is dead, due to budget shortfalls and a decision by Duke University to withhold land from the project.
According to Speaker Tim Moore's website, the NCGA has agreed on a final budget figure for the 2019-2020: just over $24 billion, which is a 3.45% increase over last year's budget and not much less than Governor Cooper's budget wish of $25.2 billion. We'll be watching for what they plan to do with it.
State Senator Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) sponsored a bill that would introduce a work "or community service" requirement for “able-bodied” adult Medicaid recipients. Republicans really just hate the idea of unconditional social support for anyone that's not young, white, and healthy, don't they? If you're in Senator Krawiec's district, call her and let her know that this isn't reasonable, if only for the fact that defining what "able-bodied" means will likely tie up any enforcement of the law, if it's passed, for most of its life.
On the other side of the debate around expanding Medicaid, the NC Council of Churches recently visited Raleigh to urge lawmakers to expand Medicaid as a way to address the rampant opiod crisis plaguing our state. Their logic is to use harm-reduction strategies like a clean needle exchange and free supplies of the overdose antidote naloxone. But this isn't all some churches are doing: "Harm reduction workers often end up referring drug users to medical and social services once trusted relationships form. 'It’s more than just giving people needles'... [Rebekah] Paulson added. 'We bring people food. We keep an eye on them. I link mothers to resources and help them find ways to get on maintenance medications.'" It's an excellent first step, and if Medicaid expansion could make these life-saving services available to more people, it's a no-brainer.
Let's keep the good news train rolling! This past Monday, a federal judge struck down North Carolina's 20-week abortion ban! What a victory for women's rights to be and stay healthy and safe!
Though marijuana remains frustratingly illegal in North Carolina, a new farm bill would expand hemp farming in the state. Hemp is a useful plant and could be a boon for North Carolina farmers. It's a wait-and-see game right now, but it's a hopeful one.
Just yesterday, NCGA Democrats introduced a menu of bills to expand rights for LGBTQ+ people in North Carolina, including a full repeal of HB2 and a ban on conversion therapy. We're used to calling our lawmakers to protest a bad bill; it's about time we get to call them and endorse a good one!
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