The only appropriate ICYMI This (two) Week(s) has to include both Patti's post from last Monday and Michelle's post from this Monday. They teach us something we could always relearn: that gratitude and compassion are necessary states of mind for people like all of us– concerned citizens keenly aware of all there is to be concerned about and doing our best to keep the lights of the world lit against growing shadows. I am grateful for the reminder, for them, everyone else on the Stamp NC Blue team, and everyone else out there in North Carolina, the rest of the country, the rest of the world. I'm grateful for everyone out there holding the light, or helping. They—you-- are what make it all worthwhile.
I'm thankful for Patti for a different but equally meaningful reason: her redistricting recap last week. Give it a read if you haven't already. Between Patti's post and this one, we've seen some updates.
When last we left the Congressional district case, Harper v Lewis, the plaintiffs had challenged the redrawn maps and the 3-judge panel had yet to issue a ruling on this challenge. Last week, that panel put Congressional candidate filing on hold until an approved map could be passed. The hearing to do just that began Monday.
“In this hearing, the court will decide whether to allow candidate filing and elections to proceed under the redrawn congressional districts. The original plaintiffs in this case are asking the court to reject the redrawn maps and delay filing and primary voting for Congress until the court itself establishes new districts untainted by extreme partisan gerrymandering. Elections officials have estimated that district maps need to be finalized by December 15 for congressional primaries to still occur on March 3 with other offices.”
Stay tuned; Patti will give us an update on what happened in the hearing (and what it means for the 2020 elections) tomorrow!
Plaintiffs (Democrats, voters, progressive-minded folk) in both redistricting cases continue to file suit and appeal decisions because they insist that even the redrawn-- re-redrawn-- districts are still too partisan. In this case, “the [Congressional] map is simply an 8-5 partisan gerrymander rather than a 10-3 one...with none of the swing districts that could move back and forth depending on the mood of the voters.” This, they maintain, is unfair to the citizens of North Carolina and damaging to democracy as a whole.
In true Republican fashion, the rebuttal to this argument is startlingly tantamount to a playground bully saying, when caught, “Yeah? So what!” and sticking his tongue out. According to State Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Republican from Archdale, the Constitution “says that in redistricting matters, it is the province of the states and it then becomes the province of the prevailing party,” he continued. “If it belongs to the prevailing party, do you think it should be anything other than partisan? It’s set up to be partisan.”
While he's not exactly wrong, he's following perhaps a bit too closely the letter of the law. The spirit of it--which isn't explicitly spelled out in the Constitution-- is such matters ought to, and have been, treated with fairness. All things, then, in moderation: since drawing districts with partisan intent is not, so far, against the law (as both the US and NC Supreme Courts have implicitly shown us), it would be fair to say that as long as the gerrymandering doesn't go too far (say, resulting in a state with 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats), it's not going to be a problem.
Now, the two redistricting cases and their attendant posses of appeals, motions and judgments represent our fight with the Republicans over what exactly “fair” looks like. As we've seen, this is not an easy, quick, or clean fight. All the more reason to keep that blue tide rolling in 2020!
Candidate filing for all races except the Congressional one currently being tested in court opened on Monday. Our friends at RealFactsNC have developed a tool that tracks not only which candidates have filed, but which ones are retiring in 2020. I recommend bookmarking this!
For the second time, Rep. David Lewis is being sued. Two weeks ago, we learned that agricultural supply company Nutrien sued Lewis' farming company for a $1 million debt they unsuccessfully had been trying to collect. Now, John Deere Financial is suing as well, for a similar reason and amount. Rep. Lewis' story is familiar to many farmers across North Carolina, as their livelihoods take a beating from Trump's tariffs. Karma's a witch, isn't it, Rep. Lewis?
It seems like all we talk about these days is who is suing whom. But some lawsuits are brought by diligent advocates for benevolent ends, such as the one that seeks to restore voting rights to felons who are out of prison but still on parole or probation. Dennis Gaddy, lead plaintiff and ex-felon, and other organizations bringing the suit with him, say that current law “violates four guarantees in the North Carolina Constitution: the free elections clause, the equal protection clause, the freedom of speech and assembly clauses and the ban on property qualifications clause. The latter claim is based on the current statutory requirement that individuals convicted of felonies must pay money to regain access to voting.” Now, more than ever, it's critically important to keep and make elections as free and fair as possible, and reinstating the ability to vote for a massively and unjustly disenfranchised group of people would go a long way in overcoming the roadblocks to fair elections in 2020. If you'd like to help these folks do it, you can donate to Dennis Gaddy's organization The Community Success Initiative here, as well as Forward Justice here.
Apparently the Democrats aren't the only ones who want Sen. Thom Tillis to be #Onetermthom. In an encore of the record-setting Senate race six years ago, this one is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in the country again. “According to Advertising Analytics, $4.7 million has been spent so far on the 2020 race.” $4.7 million so far. The race is on track to total more than $70 million. Democrats plan to spend around $4 million at least, and one of Tillis' primary challengers has busted out of the gate with a quarter million dollars' worth of ads against him already. The other, Garland Tucker, having already poured $1.6 million into his campaign, has announced he will no longer run because "It has been increasingly difficult to engage voters on Tillis’ Senate record and to raise campaign money.... Any access of our campaign to national conservative funding has been effectively cut off by the impeachment proceedings and by Trump’s endorsement [of Tillis]." While I'm not a fan of all that money in politics, I am a fan of getting Tillis, and the Trumpian influence that comes with him, gone. Come on, 2020!
As of this week, 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be tried as adults in the North Carolina court system. North Carolina is the last state to raise the age for its juvenile defendants, and even though there is no new money to help courts, police, and other institutions affected by the change, this is a very good thing for North Carolina and its youth. “Kids are different,” says veteran Mecklenburg County Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth Trosch. “Their brains are not fully developed. This law gives young people the opportunity to, one, be held accountable for their wrong and, two, learn that they made a mistake without having life-changing consequences.” In juvenile court, instead of having their crimes go on permanent public record and restricting their access to a better life as adults, “young defendants receive an array of counseling, medical and rehabilitative help, and their names and other details about their crimes remain confidential.”
Several more new laws took effect this week, among them the law that allows people to withdraw consent for a sexual act if they change their mind anytime during the act. It also dictates that incapacitated persons are unable to provide consent, as well as allowing more time for victims of child sexual abuse more time to file suit against their abusers. Congratulations, North Carolina, we're slowly hauling ourselves into the 21st (20th?) century.
The next section should be titled Duke Energy: the Good, the Bad, and the ???
First, the good: according to this new and fun interactive online tool, Ratesofsolar.com, Duke Energy in North Carolina is a “solar maker”, that is, it's helping-- or, at least, not hindering-- its customers develop and use their own solar energy systems.
Now, the bad: Duke is petitioning the NC Department of Environmental Quality to build an industrial landfill on a decommissioned coal plant site near Asheville to store coal ash. While we do need more, better, safer sites in which to store coal ash, what we don't need is the natural gas plant that the coal-powered plant will be converted into. Instead of transitioning fully to solar or wind power, Duke Energy insists on continuing to use fossil fuels (this one with a great deal of methane, a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2) that will only speed the coming climate collapse. It's time to stand up and tell them to stop: public comment for the new plant and landfill will be accepted through January 10: write Ed Mussler, N.C. Division of Waste Management, Solid Waste Section, 1646 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1646 or email email@example.com. You can also attend the public hearing at 6pm December 19 (Speaker sign up begins at 5:30 p.m) at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College’s Conference Center Room B, 340 Victoria Road.
Finally, the ????: Investigators hired by Republican legislators have found no evidence that Governor Cooper personally benefited from the environmental mitigation fund they accuse him of setting up in exchange for allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline a permit in North Carolina. As you might remember from a couple of weeks ago, Republicans were convinced that Cooper forced the ACP to pay into this fund in order to get their permit, in a tit-for-tat move that smacked way too much something the Republicans would do. The investigators did find, however, that Cooper "'improperly used the authority and influence of his office' to obtain a $57.8 million fund from Duke Energy and other pipeline developers and concessions from Duke to benefit the state's burgeoning solar energy industry.” Duke Energy officials, lobbyists and lawyers, however, stated that the fund was not meant to be in exchange for permits, and that Duke was in agreement with Cooper on the terms of the fund and how it was to operate. In the refrain of this blog, we'll keep you posted.
Silent Sam, the Confederate monument formerly on UNC Chapel Hill's campus, is gone from there, and any of the 14 counties in which there exists a UNC campus, for good (warning for violently racist language quoted in the linked article). The UNC Board of Governors have given the statue to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with a hefty $2.5 million fund for its safekeeping. While the money for this $2.5 million fund does not come from the same pot as things like UNC system employee raises and funds for improving the actual quality of education within the system, this move still smacks of the ill judgment and bad decision making that have not endeared the UNC Board of Governors to anyone in North Carolina lately.
It also makes very clear one uncomfortable truth: that white supremacy is still the law of the land in North Carolina. If you read nothing else today, please read Aylett Colston's Twitter thread on the Silent Sam issue and the relationship between the UNC Board of Governors, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the NCGA. I'm grateful for Aylett's work-- and grateful that there are lots and lots of ways to get involved right now and into 2020 so we can pull ourselves the rest of the way into the 21st (20th?) century.
Tags: (ICYMI, NCGA, redistricting, Raise the Age NC, voting rights, #onetermthom, 2020 elections, Duke Energy, UNC)
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