NCGA

NC's "chronic" failure to feed the hungry

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This is not what we mean when we say "slow food":

In a letter to the state's health agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said North Carolina social services workers failed to approve applications within the required 30-day window, or one week for emergency applications. In 2013, the state processed those applications an average of 75 percent of the time, ranking fifth from the bottom when compared to the rest of the country.

That means North Carolina lags behind neighbors Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina and even territories such as the Virgin Islands and Guam.

Some other words come to mind when assessing this shortfall on the part of DHHS, such as "continual" and "perpetual." And the longer it continues, the more the word "intentional" sounds like it fits, too. Republicans in both the Legislature and the McCrory administration are on record as viewing cuts to government benefits as some sort of "motivational" tool to push people into being "productive" members of society, and their apparent lack of concern over this Food Stamp issue fits nicely with that mindset. But a mindset that considers malnutrition and hunger as "positive" drivers of behavior has no business occupying seats of government, and should be taken out with the rest of the trash.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Swimming in industry propaganda

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Duke Energy hires a professional liar to represent their interests:

Rudo and Duke’s expert, Lisa Bradley, a nationally known expert in coal ash toxicology, also clashed over the chemical element vanadium. They split over whether the state had issued “do not drink” recommendations to dozens of well owners based on vanadium findings less than those people routinely encounter safely in everyday life.

“So you’re getting more in your daily vitamin than you would drinking water at that screening level,” Bradley said of the state’s trigger level for issuing “do not drink” warnings for vanadium found in wells.

That's a frequent tactic of Bradley's; trying to equate contaminated water to daily human consumption of foods and such. She once even brazenly stated (in court, no less) that you could feed children coal ash for breakfast every day and it wouldn't hurt them. She has established a very lucrative career of playing down coal ash contamination across the country, to the detriment of the citizens exposed to it:

Wall Street is betting you and I will pay for coal ash cleanup

And Duke Energy shareholders are already reaping the benefits:

The aforementioned state legislation imposed a moratorium on Duke from seeking any sort of rate increase related to the clean-up through mid-January this year. But last week, the ratings agency Fitch upgraded Duke’s credit rating, in part reflecting the “significant, albeit manageable” coal-ash clean-up costs, as well as its expectation that the costs incurred will be recoverable from ratepayers.

Clearly, the market believes Duke will recover costs via ratepayers. The stock hit a high at the end of January, before the general correction in utilities sparked a selloff.

Once again we're entering the "tail wagging the dog" territory, where the stock market determines business behavior instead of the other way around, like it's supposed to. The same thing happened leading up to the mortgage crisis, and you see where that got us. Due to the NC Utilities Commission's bent responsibility to ensure utilities remain "profitable," Duke Energy can legally argue that not allowing them to recover costs from ratepayers will bring down their stock values, thus hurting their overall profits. The fact that Duke's stock price was artificially inflated in anticipation of the NCUC's ruling will not even be mentioned, unless the public representative or somebody like NCWARN brings it up. That's no way to do the people's business.

The fallacy of cutting teacher assistants in K-3

Sliding back into mediocrity:

It is instructive to understand how teacher assistants came about in the first place. The position was first created and funded by the state as part of the 1975 Primary Reading Program. The goal of the program was to improve literacy among children in early grades. My mother was among the first group of teacher assistants hired in the state.

Significantly improved student achievement scores followed. It makes sense – adding another instructor immediately cut the ratio of student-to-educator in half, which gave more time for individualized attention to struggling students.

That student-to-educator ratio is the key, not only to better learning outcomes, but to basic issues dealing with health and safety, too. For the last couple of hours, I've been perusing child-to-caregiver ratios from various states for the licensing of day cares, and the ratio for children aged 6-12 varies between 1:15 and 1:19 or so. When you increase the ratio beyond these levels, significant safety issues emerge, even with children in the upper age range. If you don't believe that, volunteer as a chaperone on a school field trip for 2nd or 3rd graders. I dare you.

With Cope gone, SEANC wakes from its slumber

Only to find itself in an anti-government nightmare:

Buried deep in the Senate budget proposal that lawmakers passed last week is a provision that would eliminate state-paid health retirement benefits for teachers and state employees who are hired after January 1, 2016. “This puts the state at a major disadvantage in the recruitment and retention of state employees, teachers, and university faculty compared to other states,” said Chuck Stone, director of operations for the State Employees Association of NC (SEANC), of the Senate’s push to jettison the health retirement benefit.

Dana Cope always prided himself on knowing what Legislators were planning to do, and working his little back-room deals that (supposedly) benefited his members. But aside from throwing NCAE under the bus over the paycheck dues issue, the rest appears to have been smoke and mirrors:

Coal Ash Wednesday: 12 more NC sites to be excavated

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And the people in Chatham and Lee Counties said, "Wait, what?"

The residue of coal burned to generate power will be removed from 12 more waste pits at plants in Moncure, Goldsboro, Lumberton and Mooresboro, the country's largest electric company said. Most of the ash, which contains toxic heavy metals, would be moved to former open-pit clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties.

"We're making strong progress to protect groundwater and close ash basins, delivering on our commitment to safe, sustainable, long-term solutions," Duke Energy Chief Executive Officer Lynn Good said in a written statement.

That makes a total of (I believe) 20 coal ash impoundments that will be re-dumped into 2 counties. If the new impoundments hold, and the numerous coal trains don't scatter dust all over the place, this should be a net positive. Of course, I don't live in either of those counties, and I hesitate to gloss over their concerns. We'll keep watching.

Profiles in idiocy: Pot, meet kettle

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Silver spoon-fed behind-the-scenes instigator criticizes another's public speaking capabilities:

Before that lunch, Walker met privately with about 30 high-capacity donors, including North Carolina retail magnate Art Pope, a major conservative benefactor with strong ties to billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. “He’s not the most charismatic speaker, but I don’t think people are looking for the most charismatic,” said Pope, who said that he has not chosen a 2016 favorite but said he is seriously considering Walker.

Yeah, when you get ready to bundle your checks to get around contribution limits, don't forget that sister in Florida who has the horses...

Tuesday Twitter roundup

The bill that refused to be killed:

It's a city, you nitwit. A city in which each voter can (currently) cast a vote for a majority of council seats. The only prosperity that would result from taking away most of those votes and gerrymandering the rest would go into the pockets of those play golf in the middle of the week, not to those who play "do I get to eat today." I realize those are the only people you care about, which is probably one big reason why there are only 19% registered Republicans in Greensboro.

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