Join Neighbors On Call for voter registration/ID training on Nov. 7, 6:30 - 8 pm, Durham SW Regional Library.

Have you voted in your municipal election? If not, click here for info about early voting sites and hours (now through Nov 1), your sample ballot, and how to learn about your local candidates. Election day is Nov 5. Photo ID is NOT required for 2019 elections! Remember you can register to vote or update your registration only during early voting, not on election day.

The Senate vote to override Gov. Cooper's budget veto hasn't happened yet-- be ready for when it does, though, and keep sending messages and letters to your Democratic Senators asking them to hold the line!

Last week we learned that 3 different bills with 3 slightly different approaches to redistricting had been heard in committee. Rep. David Lewis, the very defendant in both court cases aimed at striking down gerrymandered North Carolinian maps, claims to want a solution “that makes sense”. Hopefully that means sensible to everyone, not just Republicans. That Lewis himself proposed the hearing in the first place, and that Republicans are primary sponsors on all three bills, signals that these efforts may be, in part, another effort to “put window dressing on measures that would enshrine an unfair Republican advantage in the state constitution.” None of these bills are perfect, but let us hope that Lewis keeps his promise to allow the public to have input on this process.

It's our right to have a voice in our government, but the accompanying duty is that we must be both informed and wise about it. Fortunately, some kind soul in the Legislative Analysis Division of the NCGA made up this guide to the different redistricting bills here that makes informing ourselves a snap.

The legislative session we thought would be adjourned by the end of this month will likely only be recessed; the House plans to recess for two weeks and the Senate will be out for “as long as they can”, according to WRAL reporters (video link). Given this, we're not sure when the NCGA will vote on these redistricting bills, but we'll keep you posted.

It looks like the newly-redawn state legislative maps, as approved by the court last month, are a go for 2020.

via @JeffJacksonNC on Twitter

This means that the county groupings that favor incumbent Republicans (redrawn with input from those same incumbents) will remain intact. There will be no neutral party to step in and redraw those districts, as Common Cause wanted.

This is disappointing, but the plaintiffs might appeal it to the state supreme court. Not all hope is lost! Meanwhile, read FLIPNC's projections on what these new maps will mean for us in 2020.

There's also very good news in the other gerrymandering case in North Carolina: the court issued an order barring “state officials from using the current [Congressional] map for the coming elections, including the March presidential primary. The panel stopped short of ordering the legislature to draw new maps but said disruptions could be avoided 'should the General Assembly, on its own initiative, act immediately and will all due haste to enact new congressional districts.'” This is NOT an explicit ruling that the congressional maps are illegally gerrymandered, but it's as good as one. It carries with it a warning to the Republican defendants: that the plaintiffs will likely win their case if it comes to trial, so the judges instead barred the current maps and strongly suggested lawmakers do with the congressional maps what they did with the state ones so recently approved: “enact new legislative districts in a short amount of time in a transparent and bipartisan manner."

As Michelle noted on Monday, since Republicans in the NCGA can't get their budget passed en masse, they're passing mini-budget bills that aren't all that effective at best. Not only do teachersget the short end of the stick, retirees will not get a standard cost-of-living increase for the 12thyear in a row. What could possibly warrant such a move? Why, more tax cuts for corporations, of course.

via @JeffJacksonNC on Twitter

If you're used to smoking hemp because it's basically the legal version of marijuana, you might be S.O.L. come next year. The NCGA might decree smokable hemp illegal as of June 2020. I say might because the Farm Bill almost passed, and then didn't. A section regulating skeet shooting on North Carolina farms was dropped from the version of the bill in the House, so it goes back to the drawing board.

Smoke em if you got em for now, folks, especially before you read that lawmakers, lobbyists, and current members of the UNC Board of Governors apparently want Speaker Tim Moore to be the next system president.  Moore himself hasn't confirmed or denied whether he wants the spot, but if you read between the lines of his statements in the NC Policy Watch article linked above, you might could glean enough of an answer to make you make this face:

gif via giphy

Former US Senator Kay Hagan, North Carolina's first Democratic female Senator, died suddenly this week. She appeared at a fundraising event over the weekend for presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. May her memory serve as inspiration for the women of North Carolina for many years.

Congressional Republicans, including our own Rep. Mark Walker, the former chair of the Freedom Caucus, doubled down on their defense of Trump last week when they stormed a closed impeachment hearing. Walker insisted that Americans were somehow being shut out of the impeachment process, but we all know by now that “think of the American people” is less a slogan and more a sledgehammer the GOP on the state and national level swing to clear any obstacles in their path to absolute power. The editorial linked here is worth your time to read.

Even as US Senator Thom Tillis tows the Trumpian party line, his “errant” past is catching up with him on the campaign trail to 2020. This has cropped up before, but I never get tired of hearing how vulnerable our one-term Thom has gotten. And it's such a well-known fact that even the Wall Street Journal has noticed.

You don't often hear the words "good news" and "Duke Energy" in the same paragraph, but here they are: Good news! The House has declined to pass SB559, the Duke Energy rate hike bill, with the rate-hike section intact. This section would have "allowed the North Carolina Utilities Commission to approve rate increases up to three years in advance." It's gone now. The bill goes back to the Senate to be approved in its new form. Let's hope it stays that way!

I've saved all the best for last! Congratulate yourselves, voting rights activists and North Carolinians, the last Saturday of early voting has been permanently reinstated!

via @democracync on Twitter

SB683 isn't perfect; the new absentee ballot rules may make it more difficult for those who already find voting challenging, but this is absolutely a step in the right direction, and at a very necessary time.

To leave you on a last high note, North Carolina has its first community solar program, thanks to Fayetteville and its municipal utility. Last week, it opened up a vast solar farm from which residents and businesses can buy electricity. This is cheaper than each resident installing solar panels, and, of course, cheaper than fossil fuels. Even better, it ensures cleaner air and prompts other cities and utilities to follow its lead. The future is blue, but it also must be green as well.

Tags: (ICYMI, NCGA, gerrymandering, redistricting, budget, impeachment, Kay Hagan, Thom Tillis, voting rights, Duke energy, voter issue: environment)

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