Governor Roy Cooper

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:

Can Republicans be trusted to keep Special Session free of politics?

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The short answer is "no," but with the election coming up, they may have to:

“The currents will be moving under the surface,” said Gary Pearce, a columnist who was a longtime aide to Jim Hunt, a Democrat who was North Carolina’s longest-serving governor. “You can’t take politics out of anything, and this state is so, so polarized, so politicized, and the last eight years have been so angry and bitter, that even in a disaster like this, it’s going to hard for people to set it aside.”

Few state governments in America have been as divided in recent years as the one in North Carolina, where Democrats and Republicans have regularly fought pitched battles over issues like redistricting, voting rights, bathroom access for transgender people, education, and executive authority.

Republicans take note: When your state-level feud is controversial enough to make the New York Times, you might be tempted to celebrate your success. But voters across the board are extremely tired of such partisan gamesmanship, and they will be watching closely at how you handle recovery efforts after this horrible storm. And thanks to the dynamic campaign of Jen Mangrum, Berger's constituents will be watching closely, too:

Roy Cooper files lawsuit to preserve Separation of Powers

“The General Assembly has proposed two amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that would take a wrecking ball to the separation of powers. These proposed amendments would rewrite bedrock constitutional provisions— including the Separation of Powers Clause itself. They would overrule recent decisions of the North Carolina Supreme Court. They would strip the Governor of his authority to appoint thousands of officials to hundreds of boards and commissions that execute the laws of our State. They would confer exclusive authority on the General Assembly to choose those whom the Governor can consider to fill judicial vacancies. And they ultimately threaten to consolidate control over all three branches of government in the General Assembly.”

Governor Cooper asks Trump to back off on tariffs

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Defending those NC farmers and producers at risk of economic collapse:

Cooper wrote a letter Thursday to the president telling him retaliatory tariffs against U.S. products by other countries resulting from the administration's increases stand to harm several North Carolina commodity exports.

Cooper mentioned specifically pork heading to Mexico and China and tobacco going to Turkey, China and the European Union. He says North Carolina exports of these products alone to the affected regions are $550 million annually. The governor says rising prices for all U.S. steel and aluminum also increases costs for anyone who uses them in their production processes.

Roy shouldn't have to do this, because this trade war Trump has gleefully engaged in is not a partisan issue. Congress could (easily) pass Veto-proof legislation to halt or limit this activity, but Ryan and McConnell are simply not responsible enough to take the proper steps. Here's more from Roy on what's at stake:

Offshore drilling update: Approval for seismic testing may come soon

Whether NC's coastal residents want it or not:

The steps to seismic testing in the South Atlantic include approval of the incidental harassment authorizations by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which could then be followed by approval of the permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). According to NOAA’s website, the public comment period for proposed seismic permits in the Atlantic closed last July. The comment review and final determination process typically takes, according to the site, one to three months.

“We are working through about 17,000 public comments as expeditiously as possible, but will take the time necessary to ensure that they are all appropriately addressed and that our final decision is based on the best available science,” Kate Brogan, a National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

I can't help but stir my tea leaves when a government official says, "best available science." Because they are the ones who decide what's best, what's available, and (of course) what is "science" as opposed to opinion. All that said, both the NOAA and the Marine Fisheries branch are part of a dwindling group of Federal regulatory entities that are still at least trying to do their jobs properly. But that may be about to change:

Kudos to the NC DOT for expanding public transportation into rural areas

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This is what planning for the future looks like:

One of the fastest growing states in the nation, North Carolina is expected to see its population rise to more than 12.5 million people by 2040 – a 32 percent increase from the state's 2010 population. That's why it is crucial that North Carolina's public transportation systems keep up with the changing population and connect residents in urban and rural areas to opportunities and services such as jobs, higher education, healthcare and recreation.

Partnerships between the N.C. Department of Transportation and local governments, regional authorities and other state agencies have been the source of North Carolina's transit success. Currently under development, the Public Transportation Statewide Strategic Plan will build upon that success by creating the foundation for reinvigorated state and local transit partnerships.

Just a quick note on the image above: I took that shot on the opening day of our Link Transit service here in Alamance County in June of 2016. While it does not reach into rural areas as much as I'd like to see, it has provided access to many of our citizens to our hospital and various clinics, our community college (main and satellite campuses), and of course grocery stores not within walking distance. I'm posting this as a sort of "counterpoint" piece, since Art Pope's minions have already pounced on this new plan as a waste of money. After having to argue that issue several times in-person or in meetings, I wrote this Op-Ed last year as an across-the-board rebuttal:

Why Roy Cooper should *not* choose Burley Mitchell as #9

His support for bible-thumping Paul Newby cannot be ignored:

Tom Fetzer, a former state GOP chairman and former Raleigh mayor, said that he has formed an independent expenditure campaign finance group along with two former Supreme Court chief justices, Burley Mitchell and I. Beverly Lake Jr., designed to assist in the re-election of Newby. It is called the North Carolina Judicial Coalition.

This one is bad enough to warrant two strikes against Mitchell. First, for supporting the worst Justice who has ever donned one of those robes, and second for being a conduit for hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence such an important election, with a lot of that money coming from out of state. And strike number three is the fact Burley Mitchell has snuggled into Art Pope's network of bent think-tanks, joining such notables as Virginia Foxx (ugh) and Robert Shibley of FIRE, notable for pushing the worst campus speakers and whining when administrations don't want White Supremacists marching around. Do we want this man casting the tie-breaking vote on NC's election issues? That was a rhetorical question...

From the Governor on firearm regulations and school shootings

This is what responsible leadership sounds like:

In North Carolina, we also need to strengthen the background check system to make our communities safer and keep guns from violent criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. Right now, anyone buying a handgun in our state has to apply for a permit through the local sheriff’s office, a process that includes a federal background check and an OK from the sheriff. This system allows time for appropriate checks to take place before someone can legally buy a handgun. But our law has a glaring loophole since this background check and permit process isn’t required to buy an assault weapon like an AR-15, the weapon used in Parkland. It should be.

Honestly, this seems like a no-brainer. No matter how the right-wing gun-nutters twist, equating an AR-15 with a hunting rifle or shotgun is patently absurd. Hell, you can't even duck hunt unless your shotgun is plugged to only hold three shells, but thirty high-velocity rounds in each clip is "just fine"? Here's more, which will no doubt infuriate the Ammosexuals:

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