Costs of Election Changes

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It’s ghoulish to think about, but everyone has heard of dictatorial regimes that will execute a democracy-minded dissenter and then supposedly make the martyr’s family pay for the bullets. Then there’s the N.C. General Assembly, which hires its own private lawyers to defend brazenly anti-democratic laws – and sends taxpayers the bill. Legislators could rely on the state Department of Justice, which is full of lawyers with a responsibility to defend challenges to state statutes. They could turn to the General Assembly’s own staff attorneys. But Justice is headed by…

Signers Welcome — Letter to Governor McCrory

Photo by Flickr member twbuckner

The NC NAACP has endorsed an open letter to Gov. McCrory about the state’s decision to deny certain unemployment insurance benefits and expanded Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable North Carolinians, something we have covered extensively in RR. The letter was originally drafted by four good friends and distinguished colleagues of the Council: William Barber, William Turner, Rodney Sadler, and Carrie Bolton. The NAACP is seeking additional signatures from religious leaders and other people of faith prior to delivering the letter to the Governor on Tuesday, November 26,…

Crossroads for Food Aid

Photo from the Office of Governor Patrick

Does hunger cause people to work harder, or to make better decisions as to how to spend what little money they may have? OK, let’s say the pangs of an empty stomach – or the thought of one’s children enduring those pangs – might engender focus on doing what one needs to do. “Les Miserables” comes to mind. Just as likely, however, is that hunger causes a loss of concentration and that sense of purpose often accompanying successful completion of a task. As a motivational tool, hunger leaves a lot to…

Teachers Walk the Talk

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Most people would agree that a young person’s success in school tilts the odds in favor of success in life. Most people would agree that students are more likely to succeed when they’re guided by skillful teachers. So how to explain the stark reality that public school teachers, in North Carolina more so than in many other states, as a group have been treated with such disdain? Their salary levels are nothing less than insulting for such demanding, consequential work. They are badgered by second-guessers who seek to hold them…

Trapped in the Coverage Gap

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Isn’t the federal Affordable Care Act supposed to help low-income Americans obtain the health insurance coverage that has been out of reach for millions? To be sure, that’s the idea at the heart of the law everyone now refers to as Obamacare. And despite frustrating hang-ups in online enrollment, the law will enable many folks to join the ranks of the insured. Yet many other people who probably can’t afford any coverage at all will be flat out of luck. In North Carolina, the decision not to expand eligibility for…

Shutdown Scenario: The Hunger Brink

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The political stakes and motives are plain to see. President Obama and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are locked in a desperate struggle with the Republicans who control the U.S. House. Neither side wants to be painted as villains in the sorry saga of the partial federal government shutdown, or even worse, in any default on U.S. government debt. Each wants to take credit for whatever solution to the impasse finally emerges. At the same time, while hoping to spin the situation to their political advantage – or to…

Health Law Navigators and Naysayers

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Many Americans without health insurance coverage look forward to the coming weeks and months. Starting Oct. 1, they’ll be able to enroll for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care initiative. Folks who don’t make much money – strangely and sadly, those who make too little may still be out of luck — will be eligible for federal subsidies when the coverage begins on New Year’s Day. Just think – millions of people who finally will be able to go to the doctor or hospital and…

Capital’s End-of-Summer Fallout

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Call it the year of North Carolina’s Big Right Turn. A conservative General Assembly, with a conservative governor in tow, veered away from the moderate consensus that had set the tone of Tar Heel politics for decades. Taxes were cut for high-end earners. Public schools were put through a budget wringer. Anti-pollution rules were weakened, and voting was made less convenient – a change expected to help conservative candidates. Pushback came in the weekly Moral Monday protests organized by the NAACP and supported by many individuals and groups, including the…

Back to School Amid Tight Times

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Of the many public policies North Carolina has followed across the decades, none has brought greater dividends than the state’s commitment to invest in education at all levels. No other policy has done more to support the state’s economy by attracting and nurturing businesses eager to take advantage of a well-prepared workforce. No other policy has done more to enhance the lives of millions of residents. North Carolina was able to elevate itself above its Southern peers as a state that truly grasped the link between knowledge and opportunity. If…

Court Tests for New Election Law

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North Carolina’s new voter ID law also cuts the period for early voting and makes other changes in election rules. Does the law discriminate against some voters on the basis of their race? Or is it targeted at Democrats, with any downside for African-Americans simply reflecting the fact that as a group they lean Democratic at the polls? Perhaps a better question: Should it make any difference? Racial discrimination in elections is outlawed under the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. If a law clearly aimed at helping…

Elections bill: Return to senders

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Gov. Pat McCrory has said he’ll soon dispose of the 30 or so bills remaining on his desk following the General Assembly’s July 26 adjournment. He can either sign them into law, let them become law without his signature or veto them. Will the Republican governor take a hint from Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper and veto the bill making broad changes in state election laws, including a requirement for voters to show photo IDs? Not likely – but North Carolina’s civic climate would be improved if he did. House…

Three for the Governor’s ‘No’

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If Gov. Pat McCrory goes along with the General Assembly’s partial “disassembly” of state environmental rules – and if North Carolina loses significant ground in the battle against pollution, as likely would be the case – he won’t be able to say he wasn’t warned. Fourteen of the state’s environmental groups have teamed up with a request that McCrory veto House Bill 74 – which they describe as a “68-page compilation of special interest handouts.” The so-called Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate and House…

Short Rations for Schools

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The teachers were upset. And with North Carolina now embarked on a program of aggressive backsliding in its commitment to public education, who could blame them? Teachers, many of them wearing distinctive red t-shirts, helped swell the crowd of several thousand at the July 29 “Moral Monday” protest in downtown Raleigh – the largest gathering in a series that began back in April. They objected to spending cuts and policy changes imposed by the Republican-led General Assembly, which had wrapped up its 2013 regular session three days before. All in…

More Damage as Session Ends

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The General Assembly has adjourned its 2013 session after a final cascade of disappointing and disturbing bills that now await review by Gov. Pat McCrory. Among the bills approved are ones that will make it less convenient for many citizens to vote and that weaken regulatory oversight of the environment.

There was at least one bright spot, as the House rejected a last-minute push by the Senate to speed up the environmentally risky natural gas extraction process known as fracking. But on the whole, legislators succeeded in putting the crowning touches on a session devoted to a conservative agenda the likes of which modern North Carolina has never before seen.

Squeeze on Education Spending

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A budget to carry North Carolina state government through the next two years is poised for approval in the General Assembly. It represents a triumph of diminished expectations. That is not because less money would be spent than if appropriations continued at currently authorized levels. In fact, spending would rise slightly – from $20.2 billion to $20.6 billion in the fiscal year that began July 1, and from $20.4 billion to $21.0 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. Yet, consider looming cuts in the budget for education…

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