Please support HB200, non-partisan redistricting Commission

It may be the only way to save our democracy:

No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator, or member of Congress, or other person or group, or for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group. In establishing districts, no use shall be made of any of the addresses or geographic locations of incumbents.

Except to the extent required by the North Carolina and United States Constitutions, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and applicable court decisions, no use shall be made of:

(1) Political affiliations of registered voters.
(2) Previous election results.
(3) Demographic information, other than population head counts."

At our Alamance County Democratic Party Convention yesterday, Pete Glidewell (recent Congressional candidate in NC's 6th District) made an eloquent and impassioned argument on the dangers of partisan gerrymandering. This is not a "new" problem by any stretch of the imagination, we've been living with the consequences of blatant partisan gerrymandering since the 2012 Election. And while there have been some promising developments on the legal front, we're over halfway to the next round of redistricting following the 2020 Election, and we need to fix this thing if we can. Here are some stats Pete provided to drive that home:

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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WAS SYRIA ATTACK PUBLIC RELATIONS MOVE, OR DANGEROUS ESCALATION? On the surface, Russia appeared to be willing to treat the attack as an isolated incident, especially since the U.S. has made sure no Russians would be hurt. That’s easier today than forgiving Turkey for shooting down a Russian warplane in 2015. The propaganda line on Friday’s strike is that Russia didn’t move in to protect Shayrat because Russian servicemen weren’t at risk there. The Assad regime’s military capability hasn’t been greatly affected, either. And yet apart from the predictable anti-American rhetoric and denials that Assad had used chemical weapons, Friday’s statement from the Russian foreign ministry contains one serious bit of new information. It says Russia has suspended the 2015 memorandum of understanding with the U.S. on air safety in Syria.
http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article143532624.html

Saturday News: Oh, the irony

NRA MUSEUM EMPLOYEE ACCIDENTALLY SHOOTS HIMSELF IN THE LEG: Fairfax County, Virginia, police announced Friday that a 46-year-old man has suffered a minor injury and is undergoing medical treatment after he accidentally shot himself with a pistol at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association. In its daily recap of incidents and crimes on Friday, the police department reported the accidental discharge took place at around 3:30 p.m. in the National Firearms Museum, which is based in the NRA’s Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters. According to police, the man, an employee, was participating in firearms training at the shooting range located in the museum when he attempted to holster his pistol.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article143477264.html

NC Senate bill would shift more funding to charter schools

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The school privatization train picks up speed:

The battle in question concerns how local funding is shared between traditional public schools and charter schools. SB 658 would require traditional school districts to send more of their local funds to charter schools.

This bill is misguided because charter schools already receive more local funding than traditional public schools, and the gap is growing. A NC Justice Center report published in September showed that, controlling for student residence, the local spending in charter schools in fiscal year 14-15 exceeded the local per pupil spending in traditional schools by $142 per student. That gap has increased in fiscal year 15-16, with charter schools now exceeding local spending of traditional schools by $212 per student. SB 658 would only exacerbate these funding discrepancies.

We're heading into a public school crisis with the unfunded mandate on class sizes, which has already cost educators several dozen jobs. Instead of fixing that problem (which they created), they're trying to take away even more money from traditional public schools. The word "irresponsible" falls way too short in describing their actions, but they just keep chugging along.

Friday News: Cry havoc, and let slip the poll-reversing distraction

TRUMP LAUNCHES CRUISE MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIAN AIRBASE: The US has carried out a missile strike against a Syrian air base in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town. Fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from two US Navy ships in the Mediterranean. At least six people are reported to have been killed. It is the first direct US military action against forces commanded by Syria's president. The Kremlin, which backs Bashar al-Assad, has condemned the strike. It comes just days after dozens of civilians, including many children, died in the suspected nerve gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39523654

GOP's "campus free speech" legislation actually violates 1st Amendment

Also known as the Authoritarian Libertarian conundrum:

State legislators have filed two “campus free speech” bills that on their face would eventually force UNC-Chapel Hill and perhaps other campuses in the UNC system to revise some of their campus-conduct rules and procedures.

As introduced, the N.C. House bill would require the system Board of Governors to prescribe “a range of disciplinary sanctions” for anyone affiliated with a UNC campus “who interferes with the free expression of others.” A board committee would monitor the campuses’ handling of that.

That's right, if you argue with somebody because you don't agree with what they are proselytizing about, you will be disciplined for speaking out. It would be bad enough if the publicly-funded university came up with this, but to have state government enshrine that into statute is *exactly* why the 1st Amendment was added to the Constitution. To keep government from deciding who gets to speak and who doesn't. Yes, it gets messy sometimes, like when Tom Tancredo couldn't get a word in edgewise over protesters on the UNC campus. But stifling those voices of dissent is not the way to cure that messiness, it's how you end up with a place where the word "democracy" becomes nothing more than a label. Let's take a trip to the Goldwater Institute to see where this craziness originated:

Thursday News: The stink of corruption

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MASSIVE POLITICAL DONATIONS SHIELD HOG FARMERS FROM LAWSUITS: Under the bill, property owners would most likely only be able to collect a $7,000 cap in damages over a three-year period, and the bill would apply to any lawsuit pending at the time it goes into effect. There are currently twenty-six pending federal lawsuits filled against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. As we reported last week, the bill's sponsors, including Representative Jimmy Dixon, R-Wayne and Duplin, have gotten serious contributions from the pork industry over the years. According to campaign finance records, Dixon has received more than $115,000 in contributions from Big Pork over the course of his career, including $36,250 from donors associated with Murphy-Brown, the company facing more than two dozen federal lawsuits that the bill in question would essentially nullify.
http://www.indyweek.com/news/archives/2017/04/05/big-pork-protection-bill-clears-judiciary-committee...

NC GOP pay-to-play politics at its very worst

And not one tiny drop of shame:

One of the nominees hoping the state House will award him another term on the UNC Board of Governors emphasized his fundraising efforts on behalf of conservative legislative campaigns in an email to top lawmakers earlier this week.

“I would challenge you to find anyone who has worked harder than myself to get conservatives elected and keep them there,” Hinton wrote in the email obtained by the N.C. Insider. “In fact I have been leading an effort for a new PAC to raise $250,000 to help with the 2018 elections. We have had two organizational meetings and are planning a kickoff on April 26th with an invitation list of over 200 people.”

This article is one of Mark Binker's first contributions to NC Insider, and a prime example of why they hired him away from WRAL. Hopefully the N&O sharing this at their main site (NC Insider is a paywalled subsidiary) is not just a teaser, but will be done on a regular basis. At least until after I get my daughter married off in June, because my budget belt is so tight I feel like one of those balloon animals. ;)

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