NCGA

The power of citizen activism: Greg Flynn shines a light on campaign finance improprieties

If you're fudging your books, he will eventually make you pay for that bad judgment:

In early March, Raleigh political activist Greg Flynn filed complaints with the state board saying the reports don't contain information required by law, have numbers that do not match up and, if correct, would indicate the campaign transferred more than $10,000 to Hise's pocket.

Flynn said this week he doesn't know whether the problems are the result of sloppy bookkeeping or show Hise has used campaign funds to enrich himself. Flynn said he is a Democrat who looks for issues with campaign finance reports filed by candidates from both parties. He said he became interested in Hise's reports when looking into a trip several legislators including Hise took to China that was organized by an industry group.

Trust me when I say, uncovering this information takes time, patience, and a certain level of analytical thinking that escapes most of us. I'd really like to say, "We need to crowdsource this," but I'm not sure this capability can even be taught. I probably don't have it, and I've devoted literally thousands of hours to scrutinizing state and Federal campaign finance records. So I'm giving Greg both a hat-tip and a bow, because this is one of those "services to the public" that just can't be estimated.

GOP-led NC Senate tries to strangle Cooper administration via budget cuts

The sheer scale of these irresponsible actions is breathtaking:

Meanwhile, the Department of Environmental Quality's operating budget is reduced by 6 percent in the proposed budget, with Chief Deputy Secretary John Nicholson, a retired Marine colonel among those whose jobs would be eliminated. The Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service, which works with businesses and communities with environmental regulations and permitting, boosting recycling, energy efficiency and cutting emissions, would be gutted, losing 46 positions in its Raleigh and regional offices.

The Office of Science Technology & Innovation in the Department of Commerce would be eliminated, and funding to the North Carolina Biotechnology Center would be cut by 5 percent. The budget for the Wildlife Resources Commission would be cut by 18 percent. The Department of Transportation would lose 400 positions, and another 183 positions that oversee picking up litter and roadside trash also would be eliminated.

In political analysis, it's not always easy to ferret out the "underlying" motives behind certain actions. A gut response would tell you Republican leaders are merely punishing Roy Cooper for both winning the election and taking an outspoken stance of opposition. I'm sure that's partly true, but I have a feeling these department cuts have another goal: To put the Governor and his senior staff into "crisis" mode, to make them scramble to repair the breeches in personnel and shuffle the workload, to keep them so busy just trying to perform the basic functions of government they won't have time to strategize about fighting the Constitutional overreach of the Legislative Branch. But (of course) it will also be the people of North Carolina who will suffer from this asinine and childish behavior.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's clever plan to charge us for cleanup operations

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Make deals with municipal power entities first, everybody else will be forced to follow:

Duke Energy has taken a first, major step toward billing consumers for its coal ash woes by making cost-share deals with several dozen North Carolina communities that buy their electricity wholesale for distribution on community-owned power lines.

In the last few months, the Charlotte-based utility has filed numerous petitions with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington seeking approval of these agreements for customers to pay some of its coal ash costs in “public power” communities ranging from Southport on the coast to Forest City in the western foothills.

You get that, right? Those municipal power "partners" basically do the same thing Duke does, sell power to individual citizens. Power initially generated by Duke Energy itself. And once those citizen ratepayers start shouldering some of the costs for Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash mess, it will be "only fair" that all other citizen ratepayers shoulder some (or all) of that cost. It's a fait accompli move that will put the NC Utilities Commission in an uncomfortable no-win scenario. If they refuse the rate increases for all other Duke customers, they leave the municipal customers paying more than others. If they approve it, they are hurting everybody. Except Duke Energy, of course. And here's a good example of why Duke chose this "divide and conquer" approach to bilking its customers:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Tricky Dick Burr may finally be in trouble:

Of course it all depends on "who" is actually doing said probing, and it will likely end up being just another political hack like Burr himself, but it's a start.

Roundup of bad environmental bills permeating the General Assembly

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Taft Wireback fills in the details:

Changes afoot in the Republican-controlled legislature would limit local governments’ power to create buffer zones beside streams, shield agribusinesses from high damage awards in certain types of lawsuits and fully endorse a new landfill technology that some consider iffy.

Other proposals still under consideration as the session moves into its second half include restrictions on wind-farm development, efforts to roll back state support for solar power and the repeal of a regional ban on plastic grocery bags aimed at protecting sea turtles.

To say I've grown tired of having to post these things every single year since 2011 is a gross understatement. And for every pollution-loving jackass Republican who retires from the Legislature, it seems like two new ones step forward to take his place. And the two sides of this coin couldn't be more different:

Wayne Goodwin: How NC Democrats can move forward and fight back

Make an ally of the middle class, while it still exists:

First, we must return to our roots as the party of middle-class opportunity. Growing up in rural Richmond County, I saw how far too many North Carolinians had been left behind, even as the state thrived economically. But I also saw how smart investments by the government – especially in our world-class schools and universities – could level the playing field and create economic opportunity and mobility, regardless of a person’s background or circumstances.

If I was writing this, the above would probably be my second step, with the first being: We must set aside our cynicism over politics, and work together as if those negative aspects are the exception to the rule and not the rule. That cynicism serves no purpose other than to divide us along narrow ideological confines, and the end result is always a scattered collection of small groups, actually competing with each other instead of pooling their resources. Just a quick test: If you read Wayne's first paragraph above and found more that you dislike than you like, it's probably because you were looking for things to dislike. Ergo, cynicism. Strengthening the middle-class is not just a political ploy, it's critical in maintaining our democracy, and our consumer-based economy. You want examples of what can happen when the middle-class fails, I can provide dozens, but I don't think that's something that needs a data-driven argument. Enough from me, here's more from Wayne:

GOP education plan: Unfunded mandates and temporary fixes

You can have tax cuts for the wealthy or proper school funding, but not both:

In passing the bill, Senate leaders have publicly promised to provide additional funds for enhancement teachers beginning the 2018-19 school year. Despite the pledge, the Senate worryingly voted down an effort by Sen. Jay Chaudhuri to include that funding pledge in the bill’s language. As a result, North Carolina’s class-size controversy remains unsettled.

Absent from the class-size debate has been an estimate of exactly how much additional funding will be required to meet 2018-19 class-size requirements while preserving enhancement classes for students in grades K-3. To fully-fund class-size requirements and enhancement teachers, the General Assembly will need to increase classroom teacher funding by approximately $293 million in FY 18-19.

Just a comment about messaging and word choice: I like the term "Enhancement" when classifying teachers and their subjects, much more than what I've been hearing a lot over the last few weeks, "Specials." I realize the latter is educator jargon and is not meant to be derogatory or demeaning, actually the opposite. But words don't automatically become what you want them to just because you chose them, they have their own baggage, their own connotations, and your meaning can be misinterpreted and your words used against you very easily. Special can mean enhanced, but it can also mean in addition to, on top of, on occasion, temporary, and other meanings that make it easier for someone to say, "That would be nice, but we can't afford it." I would argue these subjects are just as "Core" as the core classes, but if you're going to delineate between the two, choose the terminology wisely.

NC's "silver spoon" charter school proposal

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Because corporate scions deserve preferential treatment:

A nonpartisan, national organization setting benchmarks for charter policy is expressing concerns with a pair of GOP-backed charter reform proposals advancing in the N.C. General Assembly, at least one of which the organization describes as the first of its kind in the nation.

The former allows for up to 30 percent growth in charters not identified as low-performing with no additional state review of finances or operations; the latter clears publicly-funded charters to set aside half of their enrollment for the children of private “charter partners,” defined as corporations donating land, infrastructure, renovations or technology to the schools.

Bolding mine, because what the hell. Even ritzy private schools at least try to maintain an air of objectivity when it comes to accepting children of wealthy patrons, even if it is a wink wink, nudge nudge admissions ritual. This is pretty much a "buy your child a seat," straight-up business proposal. A seat that is paid for by the taxpayers, no less. And NC is breaking new ground with this country club "members only" BS:

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