scharrison's blog

Fifty thousand barrels: Craft brewers (finally) win their struggle

Of course this should have happened years ago:

Ending a two-year battle, North Carolina’s biggest craft brewers have reached a compromise with the state’s wholesale distributors that would let them and other large brewers at least double their annual production. The effort pitted the fast-growing craft beer industry against wholesale distributors, a group that reinforced its clout with nearly $1.5 million in political contributions in the last four years.

The compromise announced Wednesday would create a new category of “Mid-Sized Independent Breweries” such as NoDa, Olde Meck and Red Oak. Their ability to self-distribute would be raised to 50,000 barrels. The new law would allow mid-sized breweries to distribute “up to” 50,000 barrels a year. Breweries would not lose that authorization if they exceeded 50,000 barrels. However, this new authorization would be limited only to those breweries that sell less than 100,000 barrels of beer per year.

This is really good news, especially for people like me who would love to have a craft brewer set up shop in our small towns. Something like that can be a major catalyst for economic revitalization, but that previous cap had held many craft brewers back. Cheers!

Coal Ash Wednesday: The toxification of Puerto Rico

The dangers of being an unincorporated U.S. territory:

Since 2002, when AES’s coal-fired electricity plant was opened under the auspices of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), AES has been littering the territory with poisonous coal ash waste. Over the past 17 years, the Virginia-based company, which produces 17 percent of the territory’s electricity, is responsible for roughly 400,000 documented tons of coal ash, dumped without adequate safeguards, exposing local communities to major public-health hazards.

It's bad enough that we don't clamp down on U.S. companies that dangerously pollute other countries. But Puerto Rico is not a foreign entity; those are American citizens being poisoned, and they deserve the same safeguards we have. That's not asking for much, frankly, because even we don't have the safeguards we need. But this would not fly here:

Two-Faced Tillis strikes again, waffling on Trump "emergency" vote

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Give him a back door, and he will bolt right through it:

Four Republican senators have publicly said they will support a House-passed resolution of disapproval when it comes up for final passage in the Senate on Thursday. That would be just enough to ensure passage of a measure overturning the national emergency that the president declared to secure border wall funding over Congress’s objection.

But that near certainty appeared to shift on Tuesday as Vice President Mike Pence pressed Senate Republicans at a closed-door meeting before their weekly policy lunch.

If I'm reading this correctly, the Senate would be revising the law on future emergency declarations, but not the Wall issue. Which would almost be worth it, just to keep Trump under control going down the road. But what if Trump Vetoes that bill? Can we count on enough Republican Senators to have the intestinal fortitude and personal integrity to override? That was a rhetorical question, because that fantasy creature doesn't exist. As for Tillis, he's just blowin' in the wind, as usual:

The right bill for the wrong reason: NC Senate passes whistleblower protections

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Just in time for Sunshine Week:

A bill passed by the N.C. Senate last week to provide greater protections for government whistleblowers is a move in the right direction.

The Protecting Government Accountability Act passed unanimously, 44-0, after adopting two amendments that strengthen it. One requires heads of state agencies, departments and institutions to inform their employees about the law. The other clarifies that the protections cover state employee testimony to agents or employees of legislative inquiry panels appointed by the House speaker or Senate president pro tempore.

The key word there is "agents." They're called "private" investigators for a reason, because they operate outside normal parameters that dictate the behavior of government investigators. The Governor is right to shield state employees from their scrutiny, and to demand the General Assembly get its answers in a formal setting. And as for this observation:

Is there a Koch Brothers connection to Duke's light rail opposition?

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There are five million reasons to think so:

Duke has recently announced that it is accepting $5 million from the Charles Koch Foundation for the “Center for the History of Political Economy,” a center initially established with funding from Koch network donor and anti-public crusader Art Pope.

The Duke community should not just be concerned about Koch’s growing support for corrosive ideology, but the fact that his vast “dark money” network seeks to influence politics by “leveraging” higher education—specifically by influencing what is taught, and by whom. Duke’s contract with Koch gives the donor an implicit veto power over programming by allowing the Koch Foundation the discretion to pull their money at any time with as little as thirty days’ notice.

Bolding mine, because when you consider that leverage in context with AFP's accelerated and very effective opposition to light rail nationwide, it begins to stink:

Are driverless cars a viable alternative to light rail?

Some distinguished scholars believe they are:

The failure to come to an agreement with Duke University has profoundly discouraged many advocates for mass transit in Durham and Chapel Hill. Even if Duke issues can be worked out, escalating costs are almost inevitable.

We propose that large, building-shaking trains be replaced with 6-9 passenger self-driving vehicles, propelled with plug-in technology (just like a Volt or Tesla automobile). Such vehicles would shake Duke medical buildings much less than an existing delivery truck, and the internal battery would not generate electro-magnetic interference. They would also have many other advantages.

My initial reaction to this was it is just a step above "people-pods," which have unfortunately captured the imagination of otherwise logical thinkers. In my opinion, taking the "Mass" out of Transit is a huge step in the wrong direction, and using an inappropriate example to back up your theory doesn't give me a warm fuzzy either:

No means No: Criminal summons issued for Cody Henson

NC Republicans need to clean their House:

Court records show a misdemeanor criminal summons has been issued for two-term Rep. Cody Henson, R-Transylvania. The document names estranged wife Kelsey Henson as the victim. Last week, a judge issued a long-term protective order against the legislator after determining text messages his wife received amounted to "mental harassment."

State Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin and Democratic Women of North Carolina President Julia Buckner says Henson must resign. Buckner says "any form of domestic violence or abuse is categorically unacceptable."

Since neither GOP leadership or Henson himself seem ready to do the right thing, maybe a (NC) House resolution condemning domestic violence and cyber-stalking is in order? If Tim Moore refuses to bring that to the floor, both he and Henson should be plastered all over the front pages of NC's newspapers, so women in North Carolina would know just how (un)important they are. p.s. I didn't want to see his face today, so I put Gollum there instead. He has at least a few redeeming qualities...

NC GOP's "Association Health Plans" are dangerous boondoggles

The Republican Party, recycling bad ideas for decades:

Imagine small businesses being able to provide a comprehensive health insurance package to their employees on par with any fortune 500 company. While that may sound like a fantasy, we made that one step closer to reality with the Small Business Health Care Act.

Association Health Plans are not a new idea. In fact, they have existed for decades and are permitted under current law for certain types of employer groups. But because of the Obama administration’s efforts to prop up Obamacare’s small group and individual markets, most Association Health Plans were effectively dismantled in 2011.

It is a fantasy, and tightening regulations had nothing to do with "propping up" Obamacare, and everything to do with stabilizing health care markets and shielding people from rampant bankruptcies:

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