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Tax Cuts, Tax Shifts, Budget Battles

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Don’t be surprised if, during the General Assembly’s closed-door negotiations to craft a new state budget, enterprising reporters manage to pry loose some of the juicy (or gory) details. Keeping tight security on a process that involves 114 legislators – fully two-thirds of the combined House and Senate roster – won’t be easy. Not to mention that the Republicans who are running the show have actually included a few Democrats! Perhaps even more to the point, the mega-sized conference committee begins its work with members far apart on many key…

Courtroom March for Voting Rights

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Republican legislators can hardly get around the fact that their 2013 overhaul of North Carolina election laws is likely to inconvenience some groups of voters more than others. For example: People working two jobs to make ends meet will tend to feel the impact of a shorter early voting period more than will retirees with flexible schedules who can count on being able to vote on Election Day. Of course, those legislators don’t want to see it that way. As they defend the changes in a federal court trial that…

Conflicts over Policies, Power, Pride

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Regarding the state of affairs within the N.C. General Assembly these days, one little set of numbers tells a big story: 112-0. That was the margin by which the House on June 23 rejected the Senate’s version of the annual budget bill. No, not exactly a cliff-hanger. House members – majority Republicans as well as minority Democrats – not only disagreed with the Senate’s more conservative spending approach. They also resented Senate tactics that some would surely have described as bullying and an abuse of the legislative process. Unfortunately, that…

Voting Rights Sense, in a New Light

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Over and over, we heard North Carolina’s stringent voter identification law, enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2013 over the protests of voting rights advocates, described as simply a “commonsense” measure to deter ballot fraud. We were supposed to ignore the fact that the kind of fraud by impersonation that a voter ID law might prevent has not been a problem in this state, with only a minuscule number of cases coming to light. We were supposed to ignore the difficulty that many residents – elderly, disabled, living in remote…

Sad Signals on Tolerance, Rule of Law

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Gov. Pat McCrory tried to warn his fellow Republicans who call the tunes in the General Assembly. The rule of law was at stake, McCrory said, and the state would be asking for trouble if it let public officials pick and choose which of their duties they will carry out. His veto stamp thumped down on Senate Bill 2. The governor to his credit wasn’t swayed by the notion that an official should be able to avoid performing a duty because of a “sincerely held religious objection.” Granting that leeway is…

Veto Overriders Flex Their Muscles

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North Carolina’s General Assembly has muddled through many undistinguished moments since conservative Republicans took charge four years ago. Now, with an ongoing cascade of wrongheaded decisions, it’s adding to that disappointing and even destructive list. Gov. Pat McCrory, also a Republican but one who wants to be seen as more of a moderate, relatively speaking, tried to save lawmakers from themselves by issuing two high-profile vetoes. The result? In one case, House and Senate members dismissed his concerns as if he’d been – gasp – a Democrat. They overrode McCrory’s…

Via Vetoes, McCrory Declares Independence

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Anticipation of an unpleasant event – gallows humorists usually cite the prospect of being hanged – is said to concentrate the mind. Although 17 months will pass before North Carolina voters decide whether Gov. Pat McCrory has earned a second term, the possibility that he might be sent back home to Charlotte must be starting to weigh on him. His mind is starting to concentrate. Consider the governor’s two recent vetoes – in each case, tangling publicly with the General Assembly’s chiefs in a way that he’s typically been reluctant…

Bills Wink at Polluters, Abusers

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For a boatload of lofty, noble and wise sentiments, look no farther than the opening fanfares of Chapter 113A, Article 1, N.C. General Statutes. The reference is to a law commonly known as SEPA, or the State Environmental Policy Act. It was enacted in 1971, during the great upsurge of the modern environmental movement that saw Americans resolve to curb the pollution that was choking their atmosphere and poisoning their waters. Nationally, it could even be said that President Richard Nixon, that old softie, helped lead the way. The law…

Republican Budget makes Republicans Fume — Updated

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Let’s admit it – we were fooled. We never realized that the N.C. House of Representatives, with Republicans firmly in charge, was a nest of liberals. At least that must be how Bob Luddy sees it. Luddy, a highly successful Wake County businessman (his company makes commercial kitchen ventilation equipment), is an outspoken advocate for smaller government and lower taxes. He also is a heavy contributor to conservative political campaigns and causes. But he finds the state budget now being crafted in the House so full of left-leaning baloney that…

Revenue Boosts and Tax-cut Boasts

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The rooster crowed. The sun came up. The rooster puffed his feathered chest as he beheld his magnificent handiwork. Phil Berger led the state Senate in cutting taxes. Revenues nudged up, putting the state on course to finish its budget year in the black. Berger proclaimed that the tax cuts had done the trick. One might even say that he crowed. “Two years ago, when the Republican legislature passed the largest tax cut in state history, Chicken Littles on the left loudly cried North Carolina would lose so much tax…

When Lawmakers Itch to Execute

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The last person to be put to death by the State of North Carolina – in other words, put to death on behalf of all of us who live here and choose the leaders who write our laws – was Samuel Flippen, 36, who was given a lethal injection at Central Prison in Raleigh at 2 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2006 as his parents watched. The execution was the final chapter in a sad tale – of that there’s no doubt. Flippen had been convicted in the courts of…

At the Legislature, a Fateful Crossing

Photo by Flickr member yashmori

With its self-imposed April 30 “crossover” deadline, the General Assembly can sidetrack bills that haven’t gained enough support to make them worth fussing with during the remainder of the legislative session. A bill that makes the deadline by gaining approval in either the state House or Senate stays alive – for better, or as happens too often these days with Republican conservatives in charge, for worse. So, with the crossover dust now settling, North Carolinians have a clearer sense of what this year’s legislative damage toll might include. Some lowlights:…

High Court’s Double-Take on Districts

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There’s certainly no guarantee that the U.S. Supreme Court, in sending North Carolina’s election district scheme back to the state Supreme Court for review, eventually will find that the General Assembly has engaged in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. However, the high court in Washington could have gone the other way. It could have declined to consider a challenge to the redistricting plans brought by civil rights and social justice advocates. If that’s what had happened, the challenge would be dead. So, we can say that the justices’ April 20 decision wasn’t…

What Can We Say? An Invitation to Write to George

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George Reed’s retirement luncheon is set for Tuesday, June 2. This is a short five weeks from now.  Of course everyone will miss him in his role as Executive Director, but this gathering is a way to celebrate his work and to wish him well in the next part of his journey. There will certainly be a bounty of good friends, family, and respected colleagues attending this celebration. In the press of the crowd, you may not get an opportunity to speak to George that day. So you are invited to share…

Justice Advocates Convene for the Cause

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The Council of Churches’ Legislative Seminar – its top-profile public event of the year – is meant to inform, and it’s meant to inspire. We’re not too bashful to say that this year’s version, held on April 14 at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary, succeeded on both counts. With the General Assembly moving into the heart of its biennial “long session” – and with conservative legislators seemingly bent on deepening many of the ill-advised holes they’ve been digging for themselves and the state – the seminar focused on a…