Saturday News: The stupid, it burns


SOLAR PANELS SUCKING UP FARMLAND, NC SENATOR SAYS (Raleigh News & Observer) -- N.C. Sen. Bill Cook, a Beaufort County Republican, says the state needs to tackle the growth of solar farms on agricultural fields because the land that’s used is “pretty well ruined” for future farming.

While Obama ponders free community college, NC raises tuition rates

Maybe the President should have pondered higher tuition:

The State Board of Community Colleges Finance Committee discussed a local tuition surcharge proposal Thursday afternoon. That proposal would give colleges the option to charge an additional amount on top of the state's tuition rate, but not greater than 10 percent.

"Our colleges, many of which feel like they are struggling to meet those student needs, and feel like this would be another tool for them to consider to better meet the needs of their communities,” said Haygood.

Bolding mine. In what twisted reality is taking more money out of students' pockets meeting their "needs"? If anything, it's just the opposite, especially now that single food stamp recipients are required to find a job or classwork for 20 hours per week. As far as "needs of the communities," those extra tuition dollars would have been spent locally, which means this will actually put a burden on local economies. This is just one more chapter in the Republican bible of shifting costs down; down to the local level, and down to the people who are struggling to survive.

Friday News: Bond pro-con edition


LOCAL COLLEGE LEADERS MAKE PITCH FOR CONNECT NC BOND (Greensboro News & Record) -- GTCC, N.C. A&T and UNCG will share $204.5 million if voters approve the bond plan.

LIBERAL SAYS 'NO' TO STATE BOND ISSUE (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- I will vote “no” on the Connect NC bond issue in March. Do I support the higher education and state parks capital expenditures that the bond would fund? Most definitely. But I reject Gov. Pat McCrory’s “no tax increase” shell-game bond financing. If we support new expenditures for education and parks, we should create a clear revenue stream to pay for it: increase taxes.

NC Bar needs to dismiss charges against Christine Mumma

We need more legal advocates like her, not fewer:

David and Bollinger said on several occasions that reports about the Sledge case published in March 2013 in The News & Observer left them fighting an image that they “had in innocent man languishing in prison.” David described the Sledge case as being part of a “soap-opera-like atmosphere” and he suggested that Mumma was behind that “by leaking details to the press.”

Mumma’s attorneys pointed out that though David contended “leaks to the media” were “very troubling,” he did not find any factual errors in the news report.

Guess what? You did have an innocent man languishing in prison. And if Mumma hadn't pushed as aggressively as she did, he would likely still be there. If any individuals need to be punished for misdeeds dealing with this case, it's the original investigation/prosecution team who railroaded Sledge into prison:

Thursday News: Defending the defenders edition

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES NC LAW AGAINST TELLING COMPANY SECRETS (AP) — Animal-rights, food-safety and other groups sued Wednesday to stop a new North Carolina law that helps employers punish people who get hired to steal company secrets or dig up dirt.

GROUPS SEEK TO OVERTURN NC 'AG-GAG' LAW (WRAL-TV) -- A group of animal rights and consumer protection organizations filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to have a state law that allows employers to sue workers who conduct undercover investigations to expose questionable or illegal activity declared unconstitutional.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's new PR firm


DEQ's "damage control" unit defends revised classifications:

State regulators say that a controversial early draft of classifications for Duke Energy’s (NYSE:DUK) coal-ash ponds in North Carolina was largely based on incomplete dam safety information and lacking key data about groundwater and soil conditions at the sites.

And the early draft leaned heavily on dam safety information that Rusher says was out of date. “Later, dam safety considerations were updated to include current and future structural repairs that would remove the threat that the dam presented to the environment and public safety,” he says. “Early versions of any draft documents during the development of the draft classifications are incomplete and are not inclusive of the most current data and information that was collectively considered.”

Bolding mine. These classifications are meant to describe the current condition of the dams, not some "forward-looking" statement for investors. A problem isn't fixed until it's fixed. And considering Duke Energy's history of negligence in dam safety, any promises they made to repair these dams is seriously in question:

More regressive sales taxes on NC's horizon

And the Taxed Enough Already crowd is strangely silent:

But the state still ranks 33rd in the sales tax category because North Carolina’s sales tax is not broad enough, according to the foundation. Republican Sen. Andy Wells of Hickory said that is a cause for concern.

“We’re still in the bad half of the country as far as sales tax,” he told Drenkard. “Can you give us ideas of things we could look at to get our sales tax ranking down?”

Let me translate that for you, because Republicans and their conservative "think" tanks have (once again) crafted a language all their own to describe their misplaced priorities: By "bad" half Andy means they haven't shifted the tax burden onto the shoulders of the poor and middle-class enough yet, and bringing our sales tax "ranking down" will actually entail increasing the sales taxes citizens will end up paying. Hope that helps.

Wednesday News: Media management edition


MCCRORY ADMINISTRATION SEEKS TO CENSOR REPORT ON I-77 TOLL LANE HEARING (WBTV-TV) -A state Department of Transportation official wrote WBTV over the weekend asking a reporter to remove a quote, which was said in open court, from a story reporting on the I-77 toll lane hearing. Mike Charbonneau, with NCDOT Communications, wrote reporter Steve Crump Saturday afternoon asking that a quote from the attorney representing "Widen I-77" be removed from an online article. Attorney Matt Arnold argued the negotiations for the Interstate 77 toll road project were flawed.

DEQ's obfuscation and outright lies in battle with EPA

Unwilling to protect the environment, and inept at legal arguments:

In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart told the federal agency it was wrong in its suggestion that citizen groups cannot challenge in court environmental permits issued by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Van der Vaart said those concerns are unfounded because the EPA appears to misunderstand what occurred in each case it referenced. In one case cited by the EPA, the North Carolina Attorney General argued, and the judge agreed, that the citizens had their day in court but failed to prove their case. In the second case referenced by the EPA, the Superior Court did provide access the special interest group.

Bolding mine, because that directly contradicts what Van der Vaart claimed in a previous statement on this issue:


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