Via email from Ellie Kinnaird:
To quote Andy Griffith, “This was the week that was.”
From fracking, to discovering that the Republicans gave away $336 million to wealthy law firms, doctors’ practices, and large businesses under the guise of helping small businesses (at a time when our education system was suffering cuts), to forbidding scientists from reporting on or using findings on sea level changes in policy development, North Carolina is losing its leadership reputation. In fact, if you want to find out what we have become, check out the Colbert Report on North Carolina’s rejection of the scientific reports, called “Sink or swim.” It would make your day, if it weren’t so tragically true.
Even though the overwhelming testimony at the public hearings throughout the state was against allowing fracking, the Senate Republicans voted to go ahead. Even though the State Geologist reported that there is only a twelve day national supply of natural gas in North Carolina, they plowed ahead. Even though the process will use millions of gallons of precious drinking water and could contaminate our water supply, they were undeterred.
Another anti-environmental bill that passed would add another layer of burdensome review to proposed rules and regulations over and above the two existing extensive reviews. The bill would also change the definition of ammonia and volatile organic chemicals as a pollutant that ends up in the water, such as from chicken processing plants, allowing the pollution to continue unabated.
Last year, the Republicans voted to allow some community colleges to opt out of the federal Ford direct loan program. This year another Community College was allowed to drop the loans. Why any college would want to deny their struggling students a low cost loan, forcing them to take a higher interest bank loan, is hard to understand.
In one of the bright spots last week, the Senate passed a bill to continue the payment of teachers on a year-round schedule. Last year’s budget had required teachers to go on a nine-month payment schedule and require them to pre-pay if they had been paid on a 12 month schedule. This was hardship for teachers and we are pleased it was fixed.
However, on the down side, the Education bill would take away teacher tenure. While many people feel this is the only way to get rid of bad teachers, all due process rights that other state employees still have, would be removed as well. Teachers would have a one year renewable contract with a possibility of a two to four year contract. This could subject teachers to abuse - a parent who doesn’t like the grade of a child, a principal who is arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory, without recourse.
Several years ago, I was able to get human trafficking bills passed. This year, filling a gap in those statutes, the Senate passed a bill to make the sale of a child a felony abuse. We had just such a tragedy in North Carolina when a mother sold her five year old girl for sex.
An ongoing dispute between environmentalists and the commercial fishing industry was addressed in a bill that will limit the time when menhaden can be caught in our coastal waters. The waters to the north are completely fished out and this bill would protect the development of the young menhaden so that North Carolina stocks can be maintained.
Our cultural and historic sites, museums, state parks, aquariums and the zoo may charge admission if a study bill calling is passed. We have such opportunity for our people to enjoy these enhancements and it would be a shame to deny those who are unable to afford an entrance fee those experience for their children.
In the elections realm, last cycle the NC Bar Association asked lawyers throughout the state to rate judges and judicial candidates on a scale of 1 to 4. Apparently it had no effect on the outcome with some of those with the lowest rated judges winning election and those with the highest, losing. Judicial elections are always confusing to many voters but perhaps the ratings didn’t receive wide enough distribution.
I was greatly honored with a reception given me by the Person County Democratic Women last week. In addition to seeing and saying goodbye to these wonderful friends, I was presented with a beautiful hand-carved walnut bowl, a ceramic jar with the logo “Roxboro” on it, and a delightful birdhouse gourd, painted with decorations and an inscription to me. I will proudly display these beautiful mementos of my years representing the wonderful people of Person County and remember them all fondly.