NCGA

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.

NC's offshore drilling jobs: Propaganda or real projections?

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I wouldn't put a down-payment on a new boat just yet:

The creation of new jobs – tens of thousands of them – would be one of the greatest economic gains to North Carolina from offshore drilling, proponents say. Critics of drilling charge that the rosy job numbers are based on a flawed economic study commissioned by the oil industry. Reaching even those lofty numbers, they note, will requires hundreds of drilling rigs and a significant buildup of infrastructure that now doesn’t exist.

Just a personal anecdote: The guy who lived across the street from me (here in NC) for about ten years was a roughneck who worked on offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. I think he was out there for three weeks straight and then a week off, and he came home every couple of months or so. He told me that was not uncommon; several of his coworkers lived in states not fronting the Gulf. Why is that important? Because many work from the assumption that out-of-state oil workers would be temporary, that once our own people got the proper training those jobs would be ours. It really doesn't work like that. And we also won't be paying less at the pump, as many groups like AFP try to imply:

GOP strips retirement health care from future teachers, other state government workers

Because 30 to 40 years of service means nothing to Republicans:

A few short lines in the 2015-17 Senate budget would eliminate state-paid health retirement benefits for teachers and state employees hired after January 1, 2016.

“This will negatively impact the state’s ability to recruit good, qualified folks,” said Richard Rogers, executive director of the North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association. “In the future, I don’t see folks sticking with state government for the long term or for a career.

They don't want "good, qualified folks," working for the people, because that would make it harder to tear down government agencies and institutions. Better to fill the ranks with mediocre, unqualified folks, because it will condition the populace to not be dependent on a functioning public service machine, and make it much less controversial when that machine is finally switched off for good.

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