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Who Pays When It Comes to Taxes?

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People who are poor pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes than do those who are wealthy. The NC Council of Churches joined many allied organizations two years ago in opposing changes to the state’s tax structure that made it more regressive by, among other things, eliminating higher income tax brackets for wealthier people. Now there’s a report out confirming the impact of those changes. The following is from Alexandra Forter Sirota with the NC Budget and Tax Center, part of the NC Justice Center: The latest Who…

District Lines Entangle Race, Politics

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The Republicans who rule North Carolina’s General Assembly start the new year riding tall in the saddle – and yes, we can imagine GOP legislators tipping their Stetsons to salute the state Supreme Court, which gave them an early Christmas present that must have made their holidays glow even brighter. The gift arrived on Dec. 19, in the form of a long-awaited ruling that swept aside challenges to the current district boundaries for seats in the US House, the state House and state Senate. Those redistricting plans — crafted after…

Election Explanations as the Dust Settles

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North Carolina’s new U.S. senator-in-waiting, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, had what appears to have been the closest scrape among winning Republican Senate candidates in last month’s election. Tillis defeated first-term Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan by 45,608 votes out of a total of 2,800,910 votes that were cast, according to the State Board of Elections, with Libertarian Sean Haugh picking up some loose change. The victory, which helped Republicans augment their new Senate majority, was by a margin of 48.8 percent to 47.3 percent. That she came close — and…

Expand Medicaid? Now’s the time

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The decision last year by the conservatives who control North Carolina’s state government not to expand the state’s Medicaid program has left an estimated half-million residents out in the cold when it comes to health insurance – that’s the number cited by the N.C. Institute of Medicine. These folks typically are among the state’s working poor, with incomes that might rise above the poverty line but not by much. As a practical matter, the lack of health insurance means they simply do without the kind of routine medical care that…

Conservatives, Riding High, Can Heed Cooler Heads

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There’s no getting around the fact that when North Carolinians went to the polls on Nov. 5, they gave a thumbs-up to the conservatives who’ve been in charge at the General Assembly for the last four years – doing damage that calls to mind the proverbial elephant in a china shop. Republican victories might not all have been overwhelming (putting aside those districts rendered virtually immune from competition by GOP gerrymandering), and in a handful of cases Democratic challengers emerged on top. But when the dust settled, the rightward tilt…

Voter Protection Hotline

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We are coming to the end of the time for voting. Early Voting ends this Saturday, November 1. (Check with your local board of elections for the places and hours for Early Voting in your county.) Election Day is Tuesday, November 4. Polls will be open across the state from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Our friends at Democracy NC operate a toll-free Voter Protection Hotline. If you or anyone you know encounters problems with being allowed to vote, call immediately for help. Write down the phone number and take it with you…

Judgeships Crowd Ballot with Bubbles

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For people who enjoy voting, North Carolina’s upcoming election promises to be a real treat. Federal, state and local offices are on the ballot. There’s no more straight-ticket voting for party candidates, so voters will have to (or get to) pick their favorite in each and every race. What’s more, the ballot is loaded with races that are at least technically non-partisan. So party allegiances aren’t supposed to be a big factor. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work in theory. The truth is, the ballot in this state’s 2014…

Voter Suppression Highlighted From on High

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When thorny constitutional issues are being hashed out in the courts, it’s a fact of life that the show isn’t necessarily over until SCOTUS sings, or declines to sing. The acronym refers of course to the Supreme Court of the United States, which on Oct. 8 had the last word as to the rules for North Carolina’s upcoming election. The high court, in its wisdom, allowed a state law enacted in 2013 to continue in full force and effect. That was despite a strong challenge mounted by civil rights and…

Early Voting Map Helps Locate Sites

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Our friends at the NC Conservation Network have created a useful (and nifty) interactive map of North Carolina that will point you quickly to your closest early voting site. Click here to view it and use it. Just type in your address in the Search box at the top right, then click Return, NOT the little icon in the Search box. (Check to be sure it has given you a site in your county.)  It will tell you where the site is, show it to you on a map, give…

Judges Give ‘The Full Bill’ Thumbs-Down

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October 9, 2014 Update: On October 8, the US Supreme Court handed down the final word about voting for this fall’s elections in North Carolina. It upheld the District Court’s decision not to put any of our new voting laws on hold and overturned the Circuit Court’s decision which would have allowed same-day registration during early voting and out-of-precinct provisional voting on Election Day. So we are back to where we started with the voter suppression provisions of H 589 adopted by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor…

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…

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