Tale of Two Chambers Amid Budget Conflict

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North Carolina has two legislative bodies, the 120-member House of Representatives and the 50-member Senate. They’re set up to be equal in power, although it could be said that the larger House is designed to be more reflective of the public will. Senators typically have more room to operate. And operating in a smaller group, it’s easier for certain senators to gain power through political smarts, force of character or mastery of the issues. Perhaps that helps explain why, during these past couple of years of Republican dominance in both…

Priorities and the Jet that Ate the Budget

Photo by Flickr user Skakerman

A recent article in Raleigh’s News and Observer focused on the F-35 jet. The American Friends Service Committee calls this weapon system the “plane that ate the budget” and puts the lifetime cost at $1.5 trillion. Over the same period of years that Lockheed Martin has encouraged Congress to continue funding the most expensive weapon system ever, we have cut many needed domestic programs that feed our hungry and educate our children. This system isn’t yet working and is way behind schedule. Sen. John McCain said “The (F-35) Joint Strike…

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…

Statement on the Supreme Court’s Same-Gender Marriage Decision

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We celebrate today’s Supreme Court ruling with our gay brothers and sisters who wish to marry and have their marriages recognized nationwide, with denominations and congregations that have authorized and now are affirmed in continuing to perform same-gender marriages, and with the clergy who have sought to officiate these weddings as a matter of faith. At the same time, we recognize that this continues to be a difficult and complex issue for many people of faith. So we would reiterate that this ruling does not force people to change their…

The Leadership of Pope Francis

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern “[Pope] Francis almost makes me want to convert to Catholicism.” This is the sentiment generally expressed by many of my colleagues at Duke Divinity School. Many of us who are not Catholic find refreshing a Pope who is faithfully in touch with so many social justice concerns in such a visible way. He was almost from the outset a popular leader for all Christians in many ways because of his concern for the poor, the marginalized, and those without a voice (including our…

Statement on the Supreme Court’s ACA Decision

Photo by Flickr user: dbking

The North Carolina Council of Churches celebrates today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.  For decades, the Council has supported universal health care, and while the current version of Obamacare does not reach that ultimate goal, it has proved to be a crucial step forward. We are grateful to the justices of the Supreme Court who have upheld the subsidy guaranteeing 6.4 million Americans — more than 450,000 in North Carolina — continued access to care. Meanwhile, some states, including our own, have chosen to fall even farther…

Undocugraduation: Hope to Replace Fear

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern On my way to work one day last week, I listened to WUNC as I usually do. I heard a lot about the state legislature during my drive to Raleigh – about how the Senate budget will cut up to 8,500 teaching assistants jobs and the stories of TAs lobbying Senators to rethink the plan, about how the House plan is much different, but both will leave the state with millions of unused funds, and about Moral Monday protesters naming the injustices of…

Racism and Islamophobia — Local and Global

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern “Islamophobia doesn’t just affect Muslims, it affects a broad range of people,” began Manzoor Cheema, a leader of Muslims for Social Justice and one of the coalition leaders for the newly formed Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI). “The only way to overcome this oppression is to unite in our struggles.” His message was very pertinent to those at Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church recently, where representatives from at least 21 organizations gathered. Those present are actively engaged in efforts to stop…

Refugees Find Hope in Meeting With Each Other

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern Storytelling is a central piece of community organizing because through it you offer your listener a way into your life in an organized format: a challenge you faced, a choice you made, and an outcome. And so, one by one, the diverse collection of people surrounding me offered up their stories: “When I was 12, I was [abused] by nine soldiers in the street and left to die…” “After my father was killed, we had to flee…” “After we fled the civil war,…

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…

Leadership and Hope at the Margins

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern This past Tuesday, more than 200 people celebrated the career of NC Council of Churches Executive Director George Reed before his retirement at the end of this month. While I have only known George for about two weeks, I have seen the positive impact he has had on North Carolina in his years of service. At his retirement luncheon, I was blessed to hear accounts from legislators, religious leaders of many faiths, friends, colleagues, and family members about the humble leadership of George…

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…