Wednesday News: The height of irresponsibility

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NC SENATE APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM FOR INCOME TAX CAP: Senate Bill 75 would ban lawmakers from raising the income tax rate higher than 5.5 percent – if voters approve the constitutional amendment in a ballot referendum, which would be held during the November 2018 election. Currently, the constitution caps income tax rates at 10 percent. Lawmakers have set the personal income tax rate at 5.499 percent – so the amendment would prevent any future tax hikes. The Senate voted 36-13 Tuesday in favor of the bill, which now goes to the House. Republican Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary broke ranks with her party and voted no, while Sen. Joel Ford of Charlotte and Sen. Ben Clark of Raeford were the only Democrats who supported the measure.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article138483278.html

Tuesday News: Put up or shut up

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HOUSE COMMITTEE DEMANDS EVIDENCE TO BACK UP TRUMP'S WIRETAPPING CLAIM: The Trump administration asked Monday for more time to submit evidence to the House Intelligence Committee to back up President Donald Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama had wiretapped him in the waning days of last year’s presidential campaign. Jack Langer, the House committee’s spokesman, said the panel had agreed to extend its Monday deadline but asked that whatever evidence the administration had be submitted before the committee’s first open hearing on Russian election meddling, now set for next Monday. “If the committee does not receive a response by then,” Langer said, “the committee will ask for this information during the March 20 hearing and may resort to a compulsory process if our questions continue to go unanswered.”
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article138314138.html

Richmond County public comment policy unconstitutional, expert says

Hat-tip to Lisa Sorg, who put the "T" in Tenacity:

Reached by email, Jonathan Jones, director of the Open Government Coalition at Elon University, said the county’s policy “clearly violates the First Amendment.”

Under North Carolina law, counties and cities are required allocated time in their meetings for public comment at least monthly. This time is known as a “limited public forum,” said Jones, who is a First Amendment scholar. And in limited public forums, officials can’t single out a category of class or speech to prohibit. “There’s almost no getting around that,” Jones added.

Thank God. I almost thought I was losing my mind, or losing my grasp of Constitutional principles. When I first read that "No comments about items on the Agenda" thing, I went back and re-read it outloud, to see if it sounded less crazy when vocalized. Sounded crazier. In case you're not up to snuff on this, Enviva is building a wood pellet plant in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, and said neighbors have been trying to express their concern and outrage for months:

NC's hair-raising dam safety issues not being addressed

When the levee breaks, I'll have no place to stay:

To help local and state official save lives in the event of a breach, the N.C. General Assembly included a provision in the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 requiring some dam owners to file emergency actions plans (EAPs) with the state. The plans use modeling software to help decision makers understand where water will flow should the dam breach and when to warn or evacuate homeowners who, like Fraser, often don't know a dam is nearby.

Now, more than a year after those plans were required to be in place, 1,309 of the 2,011 dams that are supposed to have them don't. Only dams defined as high-hazard or intermediate-hazard potential -- designations based on the threat and property should the dam fail -- are required to have completed documents. In counties east of or contiguous to Interstate 95, 160 of the 217 dams supposed to have an EAP do not. The 73.7 percent lacking plans in eastern North Carolina is slightly outpacing the state's 60.6 percent.

Bolding mine. As is often the case when stories like this break, there's a handy expert standing by to tell us there's really nothing to worry about. And yet, not a rainy season goes by where several dams nationwide don't lose structural integrity and fail, and North Carolina has had its share. These emergency action plans do more than tell us what we should do in case of a failure, they help us figure out what other infrastructure needs we have by modeling the flow of flood waters in the event of a dam failure. And the fact we're still below 40% compliance is outrageous. A monumental failure to serve the people, that *will* result in the loss of life and property if not rectified.

Monday News: New meaning to the term "Bully Pulpit"

REPUBLICAN LEGISLATOR GOES AFTER NCAA AND ACC LEAGUES OVER HB2 BOYCOTTS: An N.C. House Republican wants to look at striking back against the NCAA and ACC for moving sports championships out of North Carolina over House Bill 2. Rep. Mark Brody, a Republican from Monroe, announced in a Facebook post Sunday that he’ll file a bill this week to address the boycotts. Brody says his “Athletic Association Accountability Act” will “determine whether the NCAA and the ACC have violated their tax-exempt status by engaging in political or lobbying activities.” It’s unclear how Brody’s proposal would work, and his Facebook post offers no further details about his bill. According to the IRS, nonprofit groups can’t have tax-exempt status “if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation.” But the groups “may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.”
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article138120728.html

Paralyzed shooting victim speaks out on need for gun control

His life was changed forever in the blink of an eye:

I’m one of the 78,000 people a year who are lucky enough to survive a gun injury. Lucky is a relative term. I have a spinal cord injury. I struggle with relentless nerve pain. One gun, one bullet changes everything.

Little did I know that 4:29 pm, April 15, 2005 would be the last pain-free moment I’d ever spend in my lifetime. At 4:30 pm, I entered the outer lobby of a Detroit television station, and was shot at point blank range. There was no confrontation, no attempted robbery, no yelling and screaming. A young man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia quietly pulled a 33-caliber handgun out of his pocket and pulled the trigger. It’s amazing the pain one bullet can cause. It was a living nightmare, a nightmare I share with an estimated 309 people who are shot in America on any given day.

This is almost too horrible to write about. To be wheelchair-bound is bad enough; we take for granted the ability to get up off the couch and walk to the bathroom, or dash back into the house if we forgot our wallet or sunglasses. For somebody in a wheelchair, even the simplest of activities are a challenge. But to also be in constant pain from a spinal injury, a pain that never fades away, nor can it be "managed" with pain meds, is just incomprehensible to most of us. We can't imagine it. But we really need to try, if we are to hold our elected officials accountable and not allow the gun-nuts to dictate policy:

Sunday News: Bad Hombre? Not even close

"THERE IS NO PLACE I COULD GO:" HARNETT COUNTY MOM FACES DEPORTATION TO COUNTRY SHE BARELY REMEMBERS (Fayetteville Observer) -- 20 years ago, Lilian Cardona-Perez left the violence of Guatemala as a teenager. This week she learns if she has to go back, leaving her husband and four children behind. "I left with my sister when I was 13 years old," Cardona-Perez said through an interpreter Saturday at an Angier prayer vigil for her family. "I have no family there. I have no home. There is no place I could go." She pauses as her husband, Juan Perez, squeezes her arm gently. "I will still go to work this week, until the day I must go to Charlotte," she said. "I have faith that God will watch over us." Cardona-Perez has a hearing on Thursday at the Department of Immigration in Charlotte. If her hearing is denied, authorities can order her removed from the country, even though she has a work permit that is valid through October.
http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170311/there-is-no-place-i-could-go-harnett-county-pregnant-mother...

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