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Daily dose: Weekend edition

LEGISLATURE 2015
Getting ready for the education budget: What you need to know from 2014-15 (EdNC) -- Between the campaign ads last fall and the negative headlines that dominate coverage of our schools, it is hard to know what the deal is with education funding. Is it up? Is it down? Both sides rely on numbers that support their conclusions and pick the comparison point that strengthens their argument.
https://www.ednc.org/2015/02/27/getting-ready-for-the-education-budget-what-you-need-to-know-from-20...

Will snow, ice reduce state General Assembly agenda? (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Don't let your friends from up North criticize the way Western North Carolina handles significant snowfall. Tell them to pick on the Piedmont, and Raleigh in particular, instead. Ice and snow last week and mostly snow this week forced cancellation of several legislative sessions and a raft of committee meetings. The House didn't meet Wednesday or Thursday and plans only a pro forma session Friday with just a handful of members attending. The Senate managed to hold a floor session Wednesday with 48 of 50 senators present, but cancelled its Thursday session and will meet with only a skeleton crew on Friday.
http://www.citizen-times.com/story/elections/2015/02/27/snow-ice-agenda/24114465/

NC Juggles Fuel Taxes To Disguise Increase (Go by truck news) -- North Carolina Senators have passed a bill that would freeze fuel taxes until the end of the year, when the rate would increase by nearly 3 percent. The bill is designed to address two problems: 1) falling tax income with the decrease in fuel prices, and 2) a longer-term need for increased transportation funding. If passed, S20, would freeze fuel taxes at 35 cents per gallon through the end of 2015. Next year, the 7 percent wholesale part of the tax rate would be increased to 9.9 percent. Instead of being adjusted every six months, the rate would be adjusted once a year.
http://www.gobytrucknews.com/nc-juggles-fuel-taxes/123

Could Democrats scuttle Charlotte's nondiscrimination ordinance?

The forecast for equality is overcast with unjustified fear and loathing:

The most contentious provision would allow transgendered people to use the bathroom in which they feel most comfortable. That’s been the focus of radio ads and thousands of phone messages paid for by opponents. In them, they’ve charged that allowing biological males to use women’s bathrooms could endanger women and children.

Democrat David Howard, who voted to put the issue on the agenda, said he’s trying to find a compromise. He’s heard from both sides – including his wife and daughters, who have raised concerns.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but a big part of being a father is protecting your family from misinformation. The odds of them even coming into contact with a transgender person in a public restroom are infinitesimally small in the first place, much less one who would even contemplate "endangering" them. You'll win the Lottery twice before that happens. Howard isn't the only Democrat flirting with the wrong side on this issue:

Intimidation in the Dark Ages


It’s nice to see the sun shining after this week’s snow, but no matter how bright the sun and Carolina Blue the sky, today North Carolina entered a new Dark Age.

When I think back on my educational experiences I never thought I'd live to see a day when Science was ridiculed as Magic, Learning denigrated as Foolhardy, and the Ravings of the Willfully Ignorant elevated to the level of Religion. Nor did I ever expect to live in a time where everyone associated with a world class university was made to feel the phrase Freedom of Speech had to be replaced with Do Not Anger The Powers That Be.

Republican efforts to suppress Gene Nichol backfired

Bouncing back stronger than before

On an otherwise dark day for the University of North Carolina, I am happy to announce that, in response to the censorship efforts of the Board of Governors, an impressive array of foundations and private donors has stepped forward to assure that the work of the center, if not the center itself, will continue and markedly expand. Generous grants and donations will allow for the creation of a North Carolina poverty research fund at the law school to support our efforts to describe, document and combat the wrenching challenges of Tar Heel poverty.

The fund will allow us to hire student, faculty and post-doctorate scholars to assist me in probing the causes of, and solutions to, economic injustice. We will carry forward the work of the center within the halls of the university, but with greater flexibility and increased resources. North Carolinians are not easily cowered. They react poorly to petty tyrants. They always have. If the Board of Governors moves to block the creation of such a research fund – a turn that is not unlikely – I will be eager to join them in federal court.

This should serve as another "learning experience" for Republicans, but I doubt they're clever enough to understand it. The capricious use of government power to stifle the voice of an individual or group will always generate a backlash. Call it the "underdog effect" if you like, or even the double underdog effect (going after Professor Nichol and those who are suffering from poverty), but we as a society abhor such behavior in our leaders. Yes, there may be some Conservative pundits and anti-intellectuals who favor this, but they are a distinct minority. What goes around comes around.

Stam persists with his fuzzy math on state revenues

"Everything is just fine," said the Captain of the Titanic:

Regarding the Charlotte Observer column “A shortfall of candor” that you reprinted Feb. x: Taylor Batten confuses “revenue” with “budget” There is a $271 million “shortfall” from the 2014 prophecies about the 2014-2015 budget. The budget itself contains explicit language that the governor shall reduce expenditures to not exceed actual revenue. North Carolina does not print money or borrow for current expenses.

The “cautious, conservative consensus forecast” for the General Fund is $20,730,100,000. This is $586,400,000 more than collected in fiscal year 2013-14. That is a 2.9 percent increase, not a decrease. For that same time period, inflation plus population growth is estimated by our nonpartisan professional fiscal staff between 2.8 percent and 3 percent.

Dude, inflation and population growth might have some bearing when you're comparing budgets and revenues separated by 5-10 years or more, but were talking this year vs last year. And last year you had $20,954,461,349 to play with, before you socked away some $300 million for use this year. And according to the Governor's projections from just last year, you should have had $21,090,914,663 to play with this year, and that was already factoring in over $500 million in reduced tax collections. The bottom line? How in the hell are we supposed to figure out the bottom line when you play 3 Card Monty with the money every year? But it appears that $271 million shortfall is really over twice as much, well past the catastrophic point.

Daily dose: No morals, no compass edition

Losing our moral compass? (Fayetteville Observer column) -- In our state some 500,000 people without health insurance. They are what have been called "the working poor." The Affordable Care Act - Obamacare - provides coverage for them, with the federal government paying for it. But our Republican politicians in Raleigh say no, not here. So the federal taxes you and I pay here in North Carolina go to providing health insurance for folks in New Jersey, whose Republican governor recognizes a good idea. But not here. These uninsured are real people. Some very sick, some in critical condition. Real people, suffering. Real people whose life will be shortened. Real people who will die way too soon, because Republican legislators like those from our neighborhood, Sen. Wesley Meredith and Rep. John Szoka, turn away. And Gov. Pat McCrory? He has publicly recognized that it is an issue that needs to be addressed. But not now. Maybe next year, after more North Carolinians suffer and die. It is clear that these politicians, growing up, missed the parable of the Good Samaritan. Missed that there are some things you must do, just because it is the right thing to do.
http://www.fayobserver.com/opinion/news_columns/denny-shaffer-losing-our-moral-compass/article_11e02...

Which religion takes precedence?

The argument over SB2, allowing magistrates to opt out of marrying people they don't like, is about more than religious beliefs--it is about whose religious beliefs take precedence.

This is the same argument the right uses against birth control pills and abortion--they violate a business owner's beliefs and they violate a pharmacist's beliefs, or a doctor's beliefs or a hospital's beliefs. But in caving to the business owner, pharmacist, doctor and hospital, they violate the religious beliefs of the employee and patient.

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