NCGA

A PEP for NCGA

It wasn't too long ago that we were hearing teachers cannot be trusted to assess the progress of their students and we needed all kinds of tests run by outside businesses (at big expense) to see how our kids were doing in school. It is so nice to see Sen. Jerry Tillman has a newfound trust in our teachers:

“The good teachers are doing informal assessments all the time, and they already know what they’re doing…"

Air quality regulations get fracked by GOP

Proving their posturing about safety a few years ago was merely an act:

Despite strong objections from environmental advocates, lawmakers hurriedly approved a bill that repeals the current law which requires the adoption of state air quality rules by the agency charged with overseeing fracking — the state Mining and Energy Commission. In other words, rather than adopting North Carolina-specific air quality rules for fracking operations (something on which the Commission was already working), the Commission will now be free to take a pass and simply defer to the rudimentary and inadequate federal rules.

Today’s vote occurred in spite of the strong objections of environmental experts like Rep. Pricey Harrison of Guilford County, who explained that the federal rules basically exempt small “wildcat” operations — i.e. the very (and only) kind of gas exploration outfits that North Carolina is likely to attract given its unproven natural gas reserves.

Solidifying the notion the State's motto has reversed itself to the new version: "To Seem Rather Than To Be."

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke fined $25 million for Sutton leaks

Apparently DENR does still have some teeth:

The agency fined the utility $25.1 million for several years of leaking coal ash that polluted groundwater around the Sutton plant. The penalty also includes the state’s investigative costs. The state also hinted yesterday that more fines for groundwater violations at other Duke power plants could be coming.

The penalty dwarfed the previous record $5.6 million fine that the state issued in 1986 against Texasgulf Chemicals, now PCS Phosphate, for air emission violations at its phosphate mine and fertilizer plant on the Pamlico River in Beaufort County.

It's probably a sign I've been doing this political blogging thing too long, but the first thought that percolated from my brain was, "There's more than one way to make up your budget shortfalls." Where will that $25 million go? In a civil suit settlement, the judge often points a finger in the direction the money should be spent, but this is different. I'll see what I can find out.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Burning down your house because you don't like the wallpaper:

The last time somebody pulled a treasonous stunt like this, a whole lot of American soldiers died because of it:

NC House tries to blunt Senate's punishing tax plan

Doing what's right shouldn't be this difficult:

First they quietly decided to keep the tax break for homeowners whose banks cut their debts. The legislature's staff thinks this pulls $14 million out of state revenues. Then a Republican on the House floor persuaded most to keep the tax break for the charitable donations. And finally a Democrat got them agree to an amendment to protect the the tax break for college expenses.

Now the bill goes back to the Senate, and time is running out. This bill needs to pass soon so taxpayers can accurately figure out before the April 15 tax-filing deadline how much additional income taxes their Republican Senators want them to pay. Will the Senate give in to these tax loopholes for the middle and lower class?

Bolding mine. Those revenues haven't been collected since 2007, back when mortgage loan forgiveness was a relatively rare occurrence. So that $14 million never existed, it's merely a projection of what they thought they could squeeze out of distressed homeowners. That being said, if the Senate will go along with leaving these deductions in place, I'll try to keep my mouth shut about revenues. For a couple of days, anyway.

Senior citizens suffering under GOP tax shift

Picking the shallow pockets of the elderly:

Murry Bubar was shocked this year when he did the taxes for his ex-wife, as he always does, and found that she owed $104 under the new system.

His ex-wife, Barbara Bubar, is 79, blind and lives in the Alzheimer’s unit of an assisted-living facility. Bubar’s income from Social Security amounted to $9,300 last year. “This is the first time in years she has had to pay any state taxes,” Bubar said. “Her medical bills are more than her income.”

By all rights, this shameless exploitation of older North Carolinians should prove to be the undoing of the GOP, since this demographic votes in numbers and usually a high percentage choose Republican candidates. But old habits are hard to break, especially for the Fox News viewers who have a fresh anti-Obama scandal shoved down their throats daily. Speaking of somebody who needs something shoved down his throat:

GOP cherry-picking data to block wind energy projects

Skvarla's replacement carrying the banner for the fossil fuel industry:

North Carolina’s environment secretary has urged a federal agency not to sell wind energy leases within 24 miles of the state’s coast, a limit that advocates say would largely block wind farms.

Van der Vaart’s letter said the two zones near tourist-heavy Wilmington deserve similar protection. He said studies commissioned by New Jersey found significant declines in tourism when energy projects can be seen from shore.

Here is the study itself, with the relevant impacts to tourism data beginning on page 29. As you can see, their perusal of available literature on wind farms worldwide show minimal negative impacts to tourism, and some areas claiming a massive increase due to the visibility of wind farms. Additional specific (NJ) site polling and projections show a net gain in tourism dollars, but you have to actually finish reading the tourism section before you get to that conclusion. If this is the study to which Van der Vaart is referring, his comment and position reflect either a serious lack of scholarly capabilities, or an intentional desire to misuse data. Or maybe both. But no matter how you look at it, his qualifications as head of DENR are in question.

Public Comments on G'boro Redistricting at NCGA

The Redistricting Committee is meeting at NCGA, Sen Rucho is Chair.
(consider all paraphrased, not direct quote)
Sen Trudy Wade will speak for her bill, Senate Bill 36.
Her bill would re-district Greensboro city, and is non-partisan. Each district would have a smaller population, and, she said, would encourage more people to run for office and pay less to do so.
Among other things, the bill adds districts. Also changes the duties, so that the mayor only votes in case of a tie. If passed would apply to the 2015 elections.

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