NCGA

Hager tries to pull a fast one, gets caught

And we can all breathe easier, for now anyway:

"Representative Hager’s amendment removes the only statutory requirement for the EMC to move forward with regulation of air pollution from natural gas development. It does so without any legislative committee review or opportunity for public debate," McCallie wrote. Had the amendment remained attached to the bill, the state Senate could have sent the measure to the governor without a public hearing or committee examination.

"I really don't believe this amendment ought to be part of this bill," Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said of the measure. Hager shot back, saying, "Don't fool yourself ... this is about folks who don't like energy exploration."

Nice try, sport. Now put that ad hominem club back in the bag, and go home and lick your wounds.

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.

FCC smacks down NC Legislature's bullying of cities

Thanks to the guts and determination of the City of Wilson, muni broadband is back on the menu:

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commissions voted 3-2 to override laws preventing Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C. from expanding the high-speed Internet service the cities already offer to some residents. The vote could embolden other cities that feel they have been underserved by traditional Internet providers, potentially undermining years of lobbying by the telecommunications industry.

The FCC's intervention in Wilson, N.C. is even more dramatic, overturning a range of state laws that the city says artificially limits competition. One provision in North Carolina law bars cities from charging prices that are lower than the private incumbents'. Another requires municipalities to gain public support for a city-run service through a special referendum before borrowing money to fund such efforts. A third effectively prohibits cities from building in "unserved areas," according to Wilson's petition.

Bolding mine. It's becoming almost impossible to keep up with all of the laws Republicans passed that have been blocked, overturned, or have come under serious scrutiny for Constitutionality. Any sane person would realize they were heading in the wrong direction with these facts staring them in the face, but the GOP is notorious for creating conspiracies of strawmen to explain their failures and poor judgment. They're going to have to raise taxes just to pay their legal fees for defending all their mistakes.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Friday news dump with Kool-Aid chaser

It's pretty bad when Florida doesn't approve of your behavior:

The country's biggest power company, the parent of Duke Energy Florida, invoked a classic PR move last week by issuing a news release at 4:20 p.m. on a Friday, shortly before the end of the workweek.
That timing often signals something bad has happened that the culprit hopes will get ignored in the weekend crush.

After reading Duke's spin, I felt like I should send flowers to the company for going the extra mile in hard times. But let's skip the Kool-Aid and look at what Duke chose not to acknowledge. Duke's is not pursuing a "proposed agreement" but pleading guilty to multiple environmental crimes — nine violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

All things considered, it is a fairly hefty fine for environmental wrongdoings. The massive TVA spill of a few years before, which released over a billion gallons of coal ash downstream, only cost the TVA $11.5 million in fines and $27.8 million in a class-action suit from affected landowners. But the funny (or not-so-funny) thing about comparing the two is: TVA has cleaned up and properly disposed of between 75%-85% of that 1.1 billion gallons spilled, while Duke Energy left over 90% of their spilled coal ash in the Dan River. One of many reasons their $102 million in fines is simply not enough.

Charters and the resegregation of NC students

The dark side of parental choice:

One reason is that as charters have grown, they haven’t met the needs of low-income and special needs populations. By law they are expected to serve minority populations, but they are not required, like traditional schools, to offer transportation and subsidized meals. In practicality, that’s a deterrent to non-white families. “There is no doubt that the charter school system in this state is contributing to racial segregation,” Ladd says.

She said white parents, in picking out charter schools, are concerned as much about minority enrollment – they prefer less than 20 percent – as about quality. Satisfaction surveys and re-enrollment trends, she said, show higher satisfaction with charters among white families than minorities.

And I'm sure more than a few of them would prefer zero percent, whether they would admit to it or not. And their children, more than any of their peers, would benefit from engaging in a diverse school population. It's the best (only?) way to break the cycle of generational prejudice. An observation which I'm sure would have the Puppets grasping for their smelling salts:

For Duke Energy, everything is negotiable

Even their "punishment" for crimes committed:

Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, accusing the company of violating the federal Clean Water Act by illegally dumping millions of gallons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River in North Carolina. They also accused the company of failing to maintain equipment around at least two plants.

Duke said Friday that it had already negotiated a plea agreement under which it expected to pay fines.

And in true cart-before-the-horse fashion, the fines just happen to be slightly larger than the dollar figure Duke decided it was prepared to pay...when? A few months ago? If this investigation and the charges that resulted are supposed to make us feel better about how justice is rendered in this country, it's a big, fat failure.

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