Saturday, May 30, 2015

McCrory Trying To Save His Governorship with Vetoes

Gov. Pat McCrory issued a second veto in just two days, saying no to the "Ag-Gag" bill. Good for him. Either he really does find the law against whistle-blowing objectionable on moral grounds, or else he's reading the polls and has decided to fight for reelection. Either way, good on him.

According to the N&O, McCrory "told a group of business representatives that more vetoes are coming."

The "Ag-Gag" bill, H405, passed both houses of the General Assembly easily, which means that an override of the veto is not only possible but likely ... unless public pressure turns around the Democrats who voted for it (!) and a few Republicans too.

If the General Assembly overrides the Guv's veto on Ag-Gag and on the magistrate's "opt-out from icky gay marriage" law, that will further marginalize the General Assembly's majority from voting independents, who already regard Phil Berger et al. as the political equivalent of prickly heat.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gov. McCrory Has Decided To Lead for a Change

Perhaps because he already knows that Speaker of the NC House Tim Moore will make sure that the House will uphold his veto, Governor McCrory announced earlier this afternoon that he will in fact veto the "magistrate opt-out" law just passed by both houses of the NC General Assembly which would allow magistrates and Register of Deeds employees to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

The measure did pass the House but with only a 67-43 majority, not enough to overturn McCrory's promised veto.

McCrory's statement: "I recognize that, for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, we are a nation and a state of laws. Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath."

That's solid legal ground for a veto of legislation that was clearly intended to discriminate against one class of citizens, just as the now overturned Amendment One did.

Oh, there was great parading of pharisaical holiness yesterday as the NC House debated the bill. One of the holiest members of the House, Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said the measure protects government officials from being forced to be "traitors against the kingdom of God" by taking part in same-sex marriage, which he described as "perverted and morally unconscionable."

"God created and defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and no country and no government, no court, no government entity, I believe, has the right to change it or to coerce anyone to disobey God in regard to it," Pittman said. "We need to stop worrying about what other nations or corporations think of us or where we stand and what our reputation is with them, and get back to caring what our reputation is in the sight of God."

One of the Republican talking points was that a "magistrate opt-out" law was analogous to conscientious objection status for soldiers. Democratic Rep. Grier Martin countered that "to qualify as a conscientious objector, a person must object to all warfare, not to a particular conflict, and that must be determined through an in-depth investigation by military officers."

"You do not get to pick and choose who you serve, you do not get to pick and choose your wars, and we should not allow our magistrates to pick and choose which citizens they are and are not going to marry," he said. "That magistrate's salary is being paid by all North Carolinians equally."

Said Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, "We’re creating a situation where people can discriminate against other members of our society at their discretion and not be disciplined. Certain people have full rights that they vote for and pay for, and other people don’t have those same full rights to treatment on an equal basis."

Haven't gotten a list of those Republicans in the House who voted against this travesty, but they need to be recognized for statesmanship.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jabba the Putz

Dwane Powell, N&O, 22 May 2015
To appreciate fully this Dwane Powell cartoon, you must understand that Sen. Bob Rucho chairs the NC Senate Finance Committee and

...that last Wednesday Sen. Rucho abruptly cut off debate on whether North Carolina should continue encouraging solar energy projects through a provision in law that makes large energy corporations (Duke Energy, we're looking at you) buy a certain (tiny) percentage of their electricity from renewable sources and

...that the bill under debate in Rucho's Finance Committee would freeze North Carolina’s “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard” (or “REPS”) – a law that requires a growing percentage of the state’s electricity load to be provided by renewable sources. Current law places the REPS requirement at 6%, but it is scheduled to grow to 10% in 2018 and 12.5% in 2021. And

...that the Republican senators on Rucho's committee are far from unified in wanting to scuttle renewable energy initiatives. In fact, observers say the majority in that committee last Wednesday wanted to vote negatively on that particular bill. And

...that Rucho, after cutting off debate, called for a voice vote on the bill and then declared it had passed even though it sounded like it had failed loudly, and

...that Sen. Josh Stein, a Democrat from Raleigh who is on the Finance Committee, told Under the Dome on Thursday he doesn’t mind losing, but if he wins and still loses, that’s not fair.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Making Animal Abuse a Constitutional Right in North Carolina

In 2011, a worker at a Butterball turkey processing plant in Hoke County secretly videotaped other workers abusing the turkeys, which led to a raid by Hoke County deputies and convictions of workers and a state veterinarian, who tipped off Butterball about the raid.

In 2013, toadies in the NC Senate of the state's poultry industry -- which ain't small nor without power -- introduced a bill to make the worker who did the videotaping subject to prosecution, a kind of "Stopping Whistleblowers" act. At the time of its introduction (and hilariously), Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, said the provision was aimed at "protecting intellectual property," when it was clearly aimed at protecting the cruelty of factory-farming.

That bill never became law, but there's a whole new iteration of this "ag-gag" movement which is currently sitting on Governor Squishy's desk ... H405, benignly titled the "Property Protection Act." The bill would allow a business or property owner to seek damages against any employee who intentionally entered an unauthorized area of that business or property to record video or sound. Whistleblowers take warning. That factory-farmer will sue your ass into oblivion if you try to blow the whistle on animal cruelty, nasty working conditions, or unsafe food production.

Although opponents of the bill are calling it the "ag-gag" bill because of the Hoke County raid in 2011, the final version of the legislation isn't limited to agriculture. It would apply to any employee in any place of business.

Any employee in any place of business.

Gov. Squishy has only until Saturday to make up his mind whether to sign this pile of turkey droppings or veto it ... or more likely, given The Guv's track-record, allow it to become law without his signature.

He's probably none too pleased to have his pending decision become a national rallying cry, but it has. He's in the public spotlight on this, and on the hot-seat.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sen. Rucho Discovers That "Trickle-Down" Does Not Work

Bob Rucho
Sen. Bob Rucho, the transplanted Yankee who represents Mecklenburg County in the NC General Assembly, was whining about higher Carolina Panthers ticket prices. (For the record, Rucho is one of the most powerful legislators in Raleigh, co-chair of the Finance Committee and one of the chief writers of the Republican budget for the state.)

Corporate tax rates in NC stood at 6.9 percent in 2013 before falling to 6 percent in 2014. This year, the statewide corporate rate declined to 5 percent. In 2014, the N.C. General Assembly (gee, thanks, Sen. Rucho!) added sales tax to sports and entertainment tickets.

Now listen to His Brilliance carp and complain: “I told [Panthers president Danny] Morrison this the other day: I said, ‘You know, we lowered your corporate taxes, we lowered the [personal] income tax, we cleaned up the issue of what was a [3 percent gross-receipts] tax embedded into my Panther tickets and yet for the last two years I’ve increased [my payments because of higher prices],’ ” Rucho said. “‘Explain to me why that is.’ ”

"My Panther tickets." For this Republican and for many others in positions of power, it's always about my comfort, what I can get out of this, what profits accrue to me.

As far as anyone's explaining the failures of trickle-down to conservatives, good luck with that project!

Hattip: LE

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Judge Temporarily Halts Fracking Permits in NC

Emphasis on "temporarily," though the high-handedness of our Republican-dominated General Assembly is due another comeuppance.

Friday, May 15, 2015

If It Weren't For Back-Biting, There'd Be No Biting At All

Craig Collins
The North Carolina Republican Party will be electing a new statewide chair at their convention in June, and the acid-washed conservatives are baring their fangs at the country club establishment. Brant Clifton is our window into that flaming Gehenna.

Best that we can figger, Gaston County attorney Craig Collins has been anointed by the country club establishment: "Collins ... [has] received the endorsements of U.S. Senator Richard Burr, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, Governor Pat McCrory, Lt. Governor Dan Forest and U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry, the Chief Deputy Majority Whip of the U.S. House. Additionally, State Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, State House Speaker Tim Moore and NCGOP State Chairman Claude Pope endorsed Collins...."

Tea Partiers eschew Collins (and spit him out). But he appears to have a lock on the job.

So the conservatives (the real conservatives) are turning their fire on the vice chairmanship. The establishment's pick there appears to be one John Lewis, whom Brant Clifton "outs" as a liberal (by which he means a dangerous moderate).

This is all very inside politics (or scorpions in a bottle), and we really should look away. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Foxx Will Fake a "Town Hall"

Only way she'll take questions is by phone, where she can screen you out and dump your call if it displeases Her Royal Highness.

Who is fooled by this?

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Not the Sermon on the Mount

More evidence of what's really up with the lust to put "In God We Trust" on courthouses, school houses, and outhouses -- it's an aggressive, bullying, in-your-face mixing of religion and politics meant to intimidate.

It's force, not faith.

Monday, May 04, 2015

"In God We Trust" (All Others Pay Cash)

Bless the pharisees' hearts! They never tire of parading their piety, but now it's not enough for them to stand in the center of the marketplace themselves and proclaim their holiness for everyone to see. They intend to use public buildings for their purposes, which are at heart purely political purposes.

Tomorrow morning at the Watauga County Commission meeting, our commissioners will be asked to sign on to putting up "In God We Trust" on the front of the county courthouse. This is a "movement" calling itself the "US Motto Action Committee" which is inducing county commissions across North Carolina to fall into line and get all pharisaical and self-righteous. If a county commissioner said "no, thank you," to this offer, why, it would be tantamount to statesmanship, to following the Constitution and refusing to mix state and religion. But what county commissioner wants to be labeled as irreligious?

You get one guess on how that vote will go tomorrow morning.

The push to inscribe In God We Trust on North Carolina courthouses is pure b.s., Christian dominionism for the post-911 world.

Yes, Congress adopted "In God We Trust" as the national motto during the Eisenhower administration, mainly so congress persons could prove they weren't Commie Red. It was at about that same time that "under God" got stuck into an otherwise adequate Pledge of Allegiance. We had to be Under Godding and In God We Trusting to prove that we were anti-commie Americans.

Now apparently we have to prove that we're not Kenyan Muslim socialists.

As far as I'm concerned, this pharisaical movement to put In God We Trust on the courthouse is just more anti-Obama bullying of the national discussion.

If these guys were actually honest about it, and dealing with stone-cold reality, they would put up in big letters on every government building in the land, "In Filthy Lucre We Trust." That would at least cut to the chase of where we are today.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Jordan Bill Targets Boone's Planned Water Intake

Yesterday, just making "crossover" in the General Assembly:
RALEIGH A bill to restrict local governments' land purchases resurfaced in the state House early Thursday after being voted down in committee Monday, but only after its scope was significantly narrowed.
The bill would originally have required that municipalities and other units of local government get permission from their county commissioners before buying property.
Now it applies only to Ashe and Watauga counties and only to acquisitions in which units of local government are condemning property outside their boundaries.
[Asheville Citizen-Times]

Jonathan Jordan’s House Bill 875, entitled “Restrict Municipal Eminent Domain,” did pass the NC House yesterday and is now before the Senate rules and operations committee. It would become effective upon approval instead of July 1st, as in the original wording. If passed, the bill would require the consent of county commissioners within the affected county before a municipality could acquire property by eminent domain ... clearly targeting Boone's intentions of obtaining easements for a water pipeline from the New River.

This nasty little piece of special targeting will pass the Senate because ... it will. Who in the Republican majority in the General Assembly would miss an opportunity to punish the Town of Boone?

But ... this special targeting of Boone seems based on the Nathan Miller Era of the county commission and may not take the true measure of its new County Commission Chair Jimmy Hodges, who is a Chamber of Commerce sort of Democrat-turned-Republican and who is almost guaranteed to like the idea of a new water system (which, need we add, can be completed by Boone, at the expense of Boone citizens, and then blithely seized by the General Assembly for a "regional water authority," with the help, no doubt, of the same Jonathan Jordan).

This is bad business for Boone, all the way around.

What WON'T Become Law in North Carolina This Year

John Wynne, the Civitas conservative who writes occasionally for Thomas Mills' PoliticsNC, was lecturing liberals yesterday morning that we should be thankful for literal small favors: now that "crossover" has been crossed over at the NC General Assembly, that means that several really awful pieces of legislation are now dead for 2015 because they failed to "cross over" -- that is, they weren't passed by at least one of the General Assembly's two celestial bodies.

In other words, we should thank Gawd, because things could be much worse.

Wynne's three examples of Republican political thuggery that won't become law this year:
SB 705: Ensure Fair Sale of Dorothea Dix Property – This bill, if passed, would have revoked the deal made by Governor Pat McCrory and the City of Raleigh for the Dorothea Dix property. Some senators felt Raleigh was getting the land for cheap and wanted to sell it for a higher price. In the end, the bill’s sponsors decided to drop the bill, saying essentially that while they’re not fans of the negotiated sales price, the deal has been done and the state should just live with it.
SB 593: Improve Professor Quality/UNC System – Would have required professors at the UNC system to teach 8 courses a year, focusing more on teaching and less on research. Bill sponsors argued that students deserve the attention of their professors and shouldn’t have graduate student TAs doing all the work. Opponents, including many in higher education, feared that it would wreak havoc at research institutions like UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State. This week, the bill was withdrawn and referred to a legislative study bill. Expect a lot more bills in the future aimed at higher education reform. This one was just a bridge too far, even for most Republican legislators.
HB 348/S550: Religious Freedom Restoration Act Because everyone already knows a little bit about RFRA, there’s no need to go over in detail what it would do. This, and similar legislation in other states, was basically a bone to throw to religious conservatives and was expected to pass easily. That is, until GOP legislators saw what happened in Indiana and got spooked. Social media activists and the high tech industry mobilized against the bill and tainted not only the State of Indiana, but also the words “religious freedom”, delivering another impressive victory for the LGBT movement.
Yes, you godless liberals, you should genuflect toward the Capitol and thank your Republican overlords that the water torture was suspended temporarily for the city of Raleigh, for college professors, and for gays.

We guess that any time the Republican Horde can curb its hatred of our capital city, higher education, and gay people is an almost, nearly good better day. Like ... we didn't get hit by a tornado, an earthquake, or the plague, so why the hell aren't we happily oblivious citizens?