Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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SENATE'S LOW EXPECTATIONS BUDGET FAILS STATE'S NEEDS: North Carolina teachers have more ground to make up than the Senate proposes. Why the limited increases? Once again, the Senate starts with a tax decrease and works up from there. What schools need doesn’t matter. Reducing taxes fixes everything. Gov. Roy Cooper’s modest budget plan should have been the Senate’s bottom line for teacher pay. Instead, at EVERY LEVEL, the Senate under cuts Cooper’s plans to improve compensation for teachers. The Senate offers NO increase in the starting salaries for teachers. And, adding insult to injury, offers no boost for the most experienced teachers. There is a term for withholding raises from long term employees – “harvesting the workforce.” Organizations use it to force out experienced employees to replace them with lower salaried employees. Who wants to work for an organization like that?
http://www.wral.com/editorial-senate-s-low-expectations-budget-fails-state-s-needs/16696768/

Coming soon to a local TV station near you: Right Wing propaganda

Sinclair Broadcasting is the Joseph Goebbels of the 21st Century:

They are called "must-runs," and they arrive every day at television stations owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group --- short video segments that are centrally produced by the company. Station managers around the country are directed to work them into the broadcast over a period of 24 or 48 hours.

Since November 2015, Sinclair has ordered its stations to run a daily segment from a "Terrorism Alert Desk" with updates on terrorism-related news from around the world. During the election campaign last year, it sent out a package that suggested in part that voters should not support Hillary Clinton because the Democratic Party was historically pro-slavery.

Here's a list of current or potential Sinclair stations in North Carolina, compiled by Seth Effron: WRDC-28, Durham; WTVZ-33, Norfolk VA; WLOS-13, Asheville; WXLV-45, Winston-Salem; WMYV-48, Greensboro; WLFL-22, Raleigh. Stations that Sinclair is seeking to purchase: WCTI-12, New Bern; WYDO-8, Greenville; WGHP-8, Greensboro.

Saturday News: Job opening: Special Prosecutor

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BURR SAYS HE HAS MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO THAN INVESTIGATE RUSSIA: “It’s safe to say that, with the events of the last week, it’s reminded me of the importance of what I do. It’s also reminded me that, with the hearing yesterday on global threats, that I can’t just focus my efforts on an investigation and Russia’s involvement in our elections, because the world is a very unstable place as it relates to security.” Most of Burr’s remarks focused on global security, and his comments on Comey notwithstanding, he ended with praise for the president, whom he has supported from early on. “I really worried as this year started with such a split of the American people, could we do big things?” Burr said. “I’m convinced today after hearing the president — who’s only focused on big things — we have no choice. We’re destined right now to do big things.”
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article150311807.html

The power of citizen activism: Greg Flynn shines a light on campaign finance improprieties

If you're fudging your books, he will eventually make you pay for that bad judgment:

In early March, Raleigh political activist Greg Flynn filed complaints with the state board saying the reports don't contain information required by law, have numbers that do not match up and, if correct, would indicate the campaign transferred more than $10,000 to Hise's pocket.

Flynn said this week he doesn't know whether the problems are the result of sloppy bookkeeping or show Hise has used campaign funds to enrich himself. Flynn said he is a Democrat who looks for issues with campaign finance reports filed by candidates from both parties. He said he became interested in Hise's reports when looking into a trip several legislators including Hise took to China that was organized by an industry group.

Trust me when I say, uncovering this information takes time, patience, and a certain level of analytical thinking that escapes most of us. I'd really like to say, "We need to crowdsource this," but I'm not sure this capability can even be taught. I probably don't have it, and I've devoted literally thousands of hours to scrutinizing state and Federal campaign finance records. So I'm giving Greg both a hat-tip and a bow, because this is one of those "services to the public" that just can't be estimated.

Friday News: "Nothing good happens after midnight at the NCGA"

SENATE REPUBLICANS RAILROAD BUDGET THROUGH IN WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING: Senators held an initial 34-15 vote Thursday evening, then returned at 12:05 a.m. Friday to take a final vote, because the chamber’s rules require that the two mandatory votes to pass the bill can’t be taken on the same day. The Senate GOP has referred to the plan as a “billion-dollar middle-class tax cut,” but Democrats note that it would reduce revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars. “We cannot meet our core responsibilities as a state if we continue to give away money to corporations and those at the top,” said Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat. As Democrats continued to file amendments, Republicans apparently grew frustrated and called for a break until 2:30 a.m. Some senators took naps, while others held an impromptu dance party in the halls of the Legislative Building. Jackson’s amended passed 34-13 and the Senate then took its final budget vote shortly after 3 a.m. Friday.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article150077897.html

GOP-led NC Senate tries to strangle Cooper administration via budget cuts

The sheer scale of these irresponsible actions is breathtaking:

Meanwhile, the Department of Environmental Quality's operating budget is reduced by 6 percent in the proposed budget, with Chief Deputy Secretary John Nicholson, a retired Marine colonel among those whose jobs would be eliminated. The Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service, which works with businesses and communities with environmental regulations and permitting, boosting recycling, energy efficiency and cutting emissions, would be gutted, losing 46 positions in its Raleigh and regional offices.

The Office of Science Technology & Innovation in the Department of Commerce would be eliminated, and funding to the North Carolina Biotechnology Center would be cut by 5 percent. The budget for the Wildlife Resources Commission would be cut by 18 percent. The Department of Transportation would lose 400 positions, and another 183 positions that oversee picking up litter and roadside trash also would be eliminated.

In political analysis, it's not always easy to ferret out the "underlying" motives behind certain actions. A gut response would tell you Republican leaders are merely punishing Roy Cooper for both winning the election and taking an outspoken stance of opposition. I'm sure that's partly true, but I have a feeling these department cuts have another goal: To put the Governor and his senior staff into "crisis" mode, to make them scramble to repair the breeches in personnel and shuffle the workload, to keep them so busy just trying to perform the basic functions of government they won't have time to strategize about fighting the Constitutional overreach of the Legislative Branch. But (of course) it will also be the people of North Carolina who will suffer from this asinine and childish behavior.

Thursday News: Burr is no Sam Ervin, Rob

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CHRISTENSEN WRITES ANOTHER SPORTS STORY ABOUT POLITICS: But he has rarely sought the limelight – infrequently appearing on the Sunday talk shows and preferring to quietly tour local businesses rather than holding news conferences back home. As a result, Burr – while politically successful – has never achieved the fame or devoted following of such Tar Heel senators as Jesse Helms, Elizabeth Dole, John Edwards or Terry Sanford. But Burr is now on the biggest stage of his career. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr has been thrust into the middle of the investigation of Russian meddling in the last presidential election and whether Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the presidency. As veteran political consultant Walter de Vries of Wrightsville Beach has recently noted, that has placed Burr in a position – similar to the late Sen. Sam Ervin – “to achieve historical greatness in the way he runs his committee’s investigation.”
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/rob-christensen/article1...

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's clever plan to charge us for cleanup operations

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Make deals with municipal power entities first, everybody else will be forced to follow:

Duke Energy has taken a first, major step toward billing consumers for its coal ash woes by making cost-share deals with several dozen North Carolina communities that buy their electricity wholesale for distribution on community-owned power lines.

In the last few months, the Charlotte-based utility has filed numerous petitions with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington seeking approval of these agreements for customers to pay some of its coal ash costs in “public power” communities ranging from Southport on the coast to Forest City in the western foothills.

You get that, right? Those municipal power "partners" basically do the same thing Duke does, sell power to individual citizens. Power initially generated by Duke Energy itself. And once those citizen ratepayers start shouldering some of the costs for Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash mess, it will be "only fair" that all other citizen ratepayers shoulder some (or all) of that cost. It's a fait accompli move that will put the NC Utilities Commission in an uncomfortable no-win scenario. If they refuse the rate increases for all other Duke customers, they leave the municipal customers paying more than others. If they approve it, they are hurting everybody. Except Duke Energy, of course. And here's a good example of why Duke chose this "divide and conquer" approach to bilking its customers:

Wednesday News: Trump fires FBI Director investigating him

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SENATOR MARK WARNER CALLS FOR SPECIAL PROSECUTOR IN TRUMP/RUSSIA PROBE: Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was one of many to call the firing proof that a special prosecutor was needed to oversee the Russian meddling investigation. He called Comey’s dismissal “shocking” and “deeply troubling.” Warner said a pattern appears to be developing in the Trump administration. “The administration insists there’s no ‘there there,’ yet President Trump has so far fired the acting attorney general, nearly every U.S. attorney, and now the director of the FBI,” he said in a statement. “In addition, this president’s choice for attorney general has been forced to recuse himself, and the national security adviser has resigned, as a result of undisclosed contacts with Russian officials . . . It is vital that our ongoing investigation is completed in a credible and bipartisan way.”
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article149608594.html

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