Coal Ash Wednesday: The $100 million bribe

When buying off a grand jury is simply the cost of doing business:

Duke Energy expects to pay $100 million to resolve a federal criminal grand jury investigation of its coal ash management, the company said in an earnings report Wednesday.

“The company expects a proposed agreement could be reached and filed in the next several days for consideration by the court,” Duke said in its earnings report. “If approved, the proposed agreement would resolve the ongoing grand jury investigation of the company’s coal ash basin management.”

I wasn't aware you could "settle" a criminal investigation, at least not openly and brazenly. Then again, this is Duke Energy we're talking about; they have their own set of rules "governing" their behavior, that usually hinge on sacred words and numbers like these:

Daily dose: More like him, please

Jeff Jackson’s wonderful, terrific, very good and definitely not bad day in the N.C. Senate (Charlotte Observer) -- Sen. Jeff Jackson had a busy day. He’s expanded Medicaid, restored university funding, approved nonpartisan redistricting, made investments in wind and solar energy, outlawed puppy mills and enacted broad-based economic development. And he may just be getting started. On a day when icy roads and a curtailed schedule kept most lawmakers home, Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat, showed up at his legislative office for a morning meeting. When his appointment failed to show, he went to work. “I thought I would fix the state,” he said in a phone interview.
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2015/02/17/5520757/sen-jeff-jackson-has-senate-to.html

Message from George W. Bush to the NC Legislature

On their misguided approach to tax reform:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to sign a bill that will help homeowners who are struggling with rising mortgage payments. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 will protect families from higher taxes when they refinance their homes. It will help hardworking Americans take steps to avoid foreclosure during a period of uncertainty in the housing market. I want to thank members of Congress for getting this bill passed. I appreciate it very much.

In recent months, our nation's housing market has faced serious strains. Home values have fallen in many parts of our country. At the same time, many homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages have seen their monthly payments increase faster than their ability to pay. And now some homeowners face the prospect of foreclosure. The bill I sign today will help this effort by ensuring that refinancing a mortgage does not result in a higher tax bill. Under current law, if the value of your house declines and your bank or lender forgives a portion of your mortgage, the tax code treats the amount forgiven as money that can be taxed. And of course, this makes a difficult situation even worse. When you're worried about making your payments, higher taxes are the last thing you need to worry about.

And higher taxes for struggling families is the last thing the GOP should be considering. Here's another glaring contradiction: Republicans in the General Assembly passed a law that NC environmental regulations for polluting industries can't be more stringent than Federal regulations, but taxing citizens more than the Federal government does is okay. The GOP leadership has run off the rails, and it's time for more rank-and-file Republicans to vote their conscience.

Daily dose: People's Grand Jury edition

'People's Grand Jury' begins proceedings to indict McCrory (Fayetteville Observer) -- Progressive activists began a symbolic "People's Grand Jury" proceeding on Monday to indict Gov. Pat McCrory and other state leaders for their decision to reject federal Medicaid for an estimated half-million lower-income North Carolinians. Four witnesses testified about their personal struggles to pay for health care - one with cancer said she has to go without because she has no insurance - before a jury of 14 people in a meeting room at the N.C. Legislative Office Building.

One legislator shows up for work on a snow day...hilarity ensues

Remember back in July when a brand new state Senator from Charlotte was introduced here as a "Dem to Watch"? Jeff Jackson has earned a bit of good press since then and today he is at it again. You see, Jeff showed up for work even though today's session had been cancelled. He is now singlehandedly trying to fix the mess the Republicans have created.

He announced this on his Facebook page:

The perils of counsel in North Carolina

An award for renowned lawyers either in or connected to North Carolina and her politics is long overdue. There should be posthumous recipients; too numerous to list here. Three living, breathing law school graduates have now come to mind. First up is Bob Stephens, counsel to Pat McCrory. While helping the Governor complete his 2014 Statement of Economic Interest form for submission to the North Carolina State Ethics Commission, the apparent misunderstanding of how to define "date" and "time" became an issue; still is. Not too far behind Stephens is an attorney named Tom Harris. Anyone who has kept up with the State Employees Association of North Carolina along with the trials and tribulations of Dana Cope knows Mr. Harris both counsels and lurks in the shadows. As an alternative to confession at Our Lady of Lourdes, Harris, Cope and others went to the News & Observer several weeks ago seeking pats on the head in exchange for repentance. We now know how that turned out.

It's the poverty, stupid.

I know Republicans aren't big on statistics and science, but even so, they ought to be ashamed of themselves when it comes to dealing with under-performing schools. Because the hard truth is this: Poverty explains more than half of why schools fail. An analysis of the problem was conducted by Will Wilson and appeared in the Chapel Hill News last week. His conclusions are inescapable:

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