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Where to Go for Voting Info

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Perhaps the N.C. chapter of Americans for Prosperity was just trying to be helpful when it mailed out a bunch of “official application forms” to prospective voters. Thanks a lot, guys. The State Board of Elections tells news organizations it has been hammered with queries and complaints about the forms, which include confusing misstatements about the voter registration process. If being helpful was its real intent, Americans for Prosperity would have done better simply to direct folks to the state board’s website. The board offers accurate, clear instructions for registering…

Voting Rights Update for Pastors and Other Faith Leaders

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November 4 is Election Day. Because of changes in election laws, it is important that people in our pews know when and where they can vote. All of the following are important:  October 10 is the last day citizens can register to vote. To avoid any problems, your parishioners should be sure they are registered at their current address by October 10. Please consider announcing this from the pulpit on Sunday, October 5, and put it in your newsletter for that week. Or send it out by Facebook and Twitter…

Judges Ponder Rules to Vote By

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North Carolina’s upcoming general election – Election Day is Nov. 4 – will be the first held under a revamped set of rules making it less convenient for some citizens to vote. Or, conceivably, the old rules will apply after all. That’s because the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has appellate jurisdiction in federal lawsuits arising from North Carolina and four other states, has agreed to hear arguments as to why the election law changes enacted last year should be put on hold. A three-judge panel of the…

An Election-Year Call to Faith Leaders

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Our time to choose North Carolina’s 2014 general election will be held on Tuesday, November 4. Although this is an “off-year” election, without contests for president or governor, many important races will be decided. The state’s voters will choose one of their two U.S. senators and all 13 of their representatives in Congress. Several seats on the state’s two highest courts will be filled, as will every seat in the General Assembly – 50 in the Senate and 120 in the House. Counties will choose commissioners who make decisions about…

Power Surge Hits Streams, Constitution

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The N.C. General Assembly during its 2014 session – a session so rife with disputes among the majority Republicans that it smoldered on and on – has left many sour tastes in many mouths. There was, of course, the updated and unpalatable state budget, short of revenue because of rash tax-cutting. In order to give public school teachers a long-overdue raise, education programs across the board had to be cannibalized. For that matter, veteran teachers whose “raises” amount to chicken feed might well suspect legislators were trying to tell them…

Revenue-starved Budget Rattles and Rolls

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The debate is familiar: State government is too big. No, it’s too small. People in the too-big camp typically think government – the state agencies and institutions that North Carolinians support with their taxes — is too expensive. That it tries to do too much in the way of regulating business. That it saps individual initiative with aid to folks who should be working harder to help themselves and makes everyone else pay. Across the philosophical fence are those who view robust regulation, robust social programs – including public education…

Warning Signs in Budget ‘Deal’

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UPDATE: After this blog was posted, the final budget was unveiled and passed by the House and Senate. The large reductions in Medicaid reimbursement rates mentioned in the blog below did not materialize. The approach of an agreement to keep North Carolina state government operating with a balanced budget, as required under the state constitution, usually brings at least a sigh of relief. Budgets seldom are approved without plenty of give and take — honest disagreements over spending priorities and how to raise the money. Settling such conflicts in line…

Capital Clash over Education, Health

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North Carolina legislators faced with vexing conflicts over a new state budget spent a solid week pawing and snorting at each other without a lot of movement on the main sticking points. Another case of partisan gridlock? Well, one could say so – except this is a standoff between members of the same party. The stakes are so big, in terms of both policy and politics, that Gov. Pat McCrory has joined the fray, siding with one set of his fellow Republicans against the other. Here, then, are the contending…

Twists, Turns on Teacher Pay

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If this year’s session of the N.C. General Assembly were a work of drama for stage or screen, the plot would be coming to a head. And we in the audience would be perched on the edge of our seats as the actors resolved the mystery: Will the state’s public school teachers get a raise, and if so, how big? There’s little doubt that the state capital powers-that-be – Gov. Pat McCrory and his Republican allies who control the House and Senate – have decided teacher pay is an issue…

Protesters’ Last ‘Salute’ as Legislators Wrangle

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With one final gathering that on June 25 drew more than 1,000 people to the heart of North Carolina’s state government, the NC NAACP and its allies say they have concluded the latest round of Moral Monday protests that focused national attention on policies of the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory. With rare exception, leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature outwardly paid little heed to the protests, which peaked last summer with crowds that could fairly be described as massive. Still, in keeping with the old rule of watching what they…

Council Spotlights Education, Opportunity

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The NC Council of Churches aims to exert a positive influence on public policies that have implications for what is commonly known as social justice. What this often boils down to is spotlighting areas of decision-making in which the interests of ordinary residents – people hoping to live healthy, productive, fulfilling lives, sometimes against the odds – hang in the balance. At this moment in North Carolina’s history, could there be any such area more important than the state’s commitment to its public schools, its community colleges, its public universities?…

Choices, Conflicts Amid Budget Squeeze

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First it was Gov. Pat McCrory who tried to fashion a state budget giving teachers a badly needed raise while hamstrung by large tax cuts. Then the N.C. Senate took its turn. Yes, teachers willing to give up their job security could get a pay boost. But the proposed Senate budget fails tests of fairness and adequacy. Now along comes the state House to take still another whack at the budget challenge. While its plan drops a couple of the Senate’s most dubious ideas, when it comes to teacher pay…

Health Crunch for the Vulnerable

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For most North Carolinians, the myriad choices that comprise the state budget may affect the quality of their children’s education, or whether their favorite state park is kept in good shape, or whether the DMV has enough employees to keep wait times to a minimum. Then there are our neighbors for whom budget decisions can bear directly on their personal well-being. Case in point: people who, if the state Senate has its way, would lose their health insurance coverage under Medicaid. And it’s not as if this group of people…

Early Voting — Contact Your Local Board of Elections

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One of the most harmful parts of last year’s voter suppression bill was the limitation on early voting. There had been 17 days of it. Last year’s bill, adopted by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor, shortened that to 10 days. This can make it harder on working people who must take time off from work on Election Day to vote, for churches which have promoted “Souls to the Polls” voting after Sunday services, and on others who benefit from early voting. But the bill also requires local…

Senate Budget, Fracking Roar Through

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Say this much for the leaders of the North Carolina Senate and House: When they make up their minds on a course of action, they don’t mess around. The General Assembly was in only the second full week of its 2014 session. But already the Senate, marching quick-time to the cadence set by President Pro Tem Phil Berger, Republican of Eden, was passing its version of a state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. It’s a budget that significantly raises the stakes in the debate over teacher pay,…

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