I'll be honest with y'all, I'm (almost) at a loss for words on how to sum up this past week in the NCGA. Two major events happened concurrently: the House and Senate redistricting meetings in the wake of the courts' demand to redraw the legislative maps and the Republicans' malicious, slimy override of Governor Cooper's budget veto in the House. Both happened so fast and unfolded into such SNAFUs that I feel like Hurricane Dorian blew through my brain, whew.
Since neither issue is less complex or nuanced than the other, let's just start with the veto override. I have to hand it to Sen. Mike Woodard; he came through with a concise, crystal-clear explanation of exactly what happened last Wednesday, and what features of the NCGA's M.O. allowed it to happen. It's in two parts on his Facebook page. Part one is here; part two is here. Facebook makes my skin crawl at the best of times, but this was worth logging in for. Thank you, Sen. Woodard!
Thanks also to Sen. Jeff Jackson for his Medium article, written in the style of a hypothetical conversation between himself and GOP leadership. I say hypothetical because I doubt they would stay around long enough to let Sen. Jackson speak his whole mind.
Thanks also also to Patti as well for covering for me last Wednesday and her equally eloquent post this past Thursday about the kerfuffle. The fallout of this bombshell has taught us two lessons, once again, hopefully for the final time: trust is, unfortunately, no longer a feature or an operating principle in the legislature anymore; and the NCGOP believes that no matter what, they can do whatever they want with no consequence or accountability.
This is becoming the Republicans' standard operating procedure across the country. The New York Timesreports on this and on a refusal by the acting director of national intelligence to obey a subpoena for a whistleblower's complaint.
“What the stories have in common, however, is that they illustrate contempt for democracy and constitutional government. Elections are supposed to have consequences, conveying power to the winners. But when Democrats win an election, the modern G.O.P. does its best to negate the results, flouting norms and, if necessary, the law to carry on as if the voters hadn’t spoken.”
I know we've been dealing with this dangerously autocratic leadership by state Republicans for almost a decade now, so it's easy to understand why we're all tired and may not be keeping our eyes and ears up as high as we should.
But we must be vigilant. Case in point:
The Senate was about to take up the issue of the veto override. This may very well be another attempt by GOP leadership to sneak an override past Democrats. Do not trust Sen. Berger. I'm going to email my Senator and suggest he not trust him either. You may want to do the same. And stay alert; we may be posting urgent actions in response to further Republican tomfoolery.
The redistricting saga-- or this arc of it-- has reached its downslope: The House and Senate have both passed new maps. Republicans approved them; Democrats were split on whether they liked them. Now, “the panel of three state judges who gave the legislature two weeks for this redraw will decide, with the help of Stanford University law professor [Nathan Persily] assigned to referee, whether legislators fixed problems that the court found.” The WRAL article linked above has a clickable graphic that allows you to see the newly redrawn districts. One Republican– you might know him– voted vociferously against the new maps. Sen. Dan Bishop, fresh off his NC-09 win last week, threw a tantrumand “resigned from the state Senate after Monday's session. Bishop said it was a vote against 'pure judicial tyranny' from the court in the case, Common Cause v. Lewis.” And that is, friends, what we call the trash taking itself out.
The period for public comment on the new maps and the process to establish them was viciously short, but it produced a wide range of results from a lot of concerned North Carolina voters. NC Policy Watch has collected some of the best.
These two issues have taken up the majority of everyone's bandwidth (including mine), but that's all the more reason to be vigilant for the things that slip through the cracks. This is In Case You Missed It, right?
Voting by absentee ballot in NC-09 dropped off drastically-- by two-thirds of what it was on the first go-round-- in the wake of changes to the process that resulted in a new election. This shouldn't be an entire surprise; I'm sure quite a few folks were spooked by the realization that their ballots may have been fraudulently handled and decided either to vote in person or abstain altogether. Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics and history at Catawba College, expects “depressed turnout by mail will be a lasting legacy of the 2018 scandal – at least for a while.” Let's hope it bounces back. The more we can do to inspire trust in the democratic process, the better. And there's a lot needs to be done.
A few weeks ago I reported that the NC Board of Elections, led by its new chairman Damon Circosta, voted to certify new voting equipment against the advice of many voting rights advocates. This might actually have been against North Carolina law, according to a group of experts on election security and administrationin a letter they sent to the N.C. Board of Elections last week. They claim that the BoE did not follow a law requiring review of the source code of all voting machines before they are approved.
...like I said, there's a lot needs to be done.
Many North Carolinians have not yet fully recovered from Hurricane Matthew, let alone Florence and Dorian. Nowhere in the budget the Republicans are doing their darnedest to pass is a provision to bolster the state's “Rainy Day” fund, which will be very much needed in the future as we face a possible recession, along with a certainty of more hurricanes. Instead, the legislature is pushing the Taxpayer Refund Act, which would put a few hundred dollars back in our pockets in a one-time disbursement. Thanks but no thanks; I'd rather have the rich taxed (not refunded) and have that few hundred dollars added to the state's savings, cushioning us against whatever rough weather, political or atmospheric, may arrive.
Right now, there is no provision in the rules governing composting in North Carolina to test for dangerous carcinogens like 1,4-Dioxane and PFAS. But an NC Policy Watch investigationhas prompted change. A permanent standard regulating these chemicals will be considered later this year, as it requires a period of public comment and hearings. In the meantime, “state environmental regulators can enact and enforce interim maximum allowed concentrations, called IMACs, but they are intended to be only temporary. They are set by the director and are not subject to public comment.”
And just in time, too-- PFAS contamination of water in North Carolina and nationwide is getting worse, as testimony at a congressional hearing shows. And of course, the responsible parties (DuPont, Chemours and 3M) spent the whole hearing pointing fingers and harrumphing. “'All of you play a part in this national emergency,' [Rep. Debbie]Wasserman Schultz told the three company officials. 'I don’t know how you sleep at night.'”
Get 'em, Rep. Wasserman Schultz.
On the subject of huge corporations failing to do anything but serve themselves, Duke Energy rolled out a revised climate strategy last week, touting its “accelerated” plan to hit zero carbon emissions by 2050. It relies on doubling “the solar, wind and other renewable in energy in its portfolio by 2025, and the plan also relies on the continued use of nuclear energy in North Carolina, though the company said it's not planning any major expansions.” This is underwhelming at best, and not enough to avoid a climate crisis.
It's also hypocritical: Duke continues to invest in and push the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, “a $7.5-billion-plus investment in fracked natural gas held up by a series of lawsuits and regulatory actions.” It's clear what this plan actually is: an excuse to double down on the ACP and lean heavily on an energy source that is just as harmful, if not more fashionable, than coal.
The other Duke in North Carolina-- University, that is-- published a free downloadable 66-page Energy Efficiency Roadmap (with pictures) that establishes 3 objectives and makes 32 clearly-explained recommendations which North Carolinians from policymakers to students can use to make their own clean future. It might not be the most riveting weekend reading, but learning, knowing, and acting on the information in the report becomes more and more crucial by the day.
Tags: (ICYMI, budget, redistricting, environment, election security, voting, absentee ballots)
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