NC GOP

The "polluter protection bill" needs to be dropped in the dustbin

And then both should be incinerated and the ashes buried in a lined pit:

The bill would, among other things, reduce the number of air-quality monitors in the state, relax the protection of intermittent streams from development and eliminate the financing for recycling of old computers and TVs. It would still be illegal for these items to be tossed into landfills. But without state financing, and with financing for such programs from municipalities uncertain, some people might toss their electronic equipment into landfills, where its hazardous chemicals could leak into our groundwater and well water.

There’s a provision that would make it easier for the state to recover legal fees from people who unsuccessfully challenge environmental impact in two broad categories. “It would make anyone considering an environmental lawsuit, in many instances, far less likely to do so, because it could make them responsible for the state’s legal costs,” Molly Diggins, the director of the Sierra Club’s North Carolina chapter, told our editorial board Thursday.

And surprise, surprise, Trudy Wade's devious fingerprints are all over this toxic mess of a bill.

Allowing Greensboro's voters a referendum a "dealbreaker" for GOP

The blatant abuse of power is breathtaking:

The revised bill emerged in the House on Wednesday afternoon in the form of a conference report. It was written by a joint House-Senate committee that wasn’t fully formed until Tuesday afternoon.

Hardister said Wednesday that he sent word to the conference committee that he wanted the bill to include a referendum. “The referendum was a deal-breaker for a majority of the conference committee. I floated it.” The result, he said, was a compromise. “You don’t get everything you want in the legislative process.”

Pretty sure the voters in Greensboro would say "You don't get anything you want in the Legislative process." The most dumbfounding aspect of this story: Republicans feel justified in taking these abusive steps exactly because Greensboro residents would never approve them. How is that for absurdity? "This is the only way we can make this happen, so it is by default a 'legitimate' action." And you're right, it's straight out of George Orwell.

NC's "chronic" failure to feed the hungry

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This is not what we mean when we say "slow food":

In a letter to the state's health agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said North Carolina social services workers failed to approve applications within the required 30-day window, or one week for emergency applications. In 2013, the state processed those applications an average of 75 percent of the time, ranking fifth from the bottom when compared to the rest of the country.

That means North Carolina lags behind neighbors Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina and even territories such as the Virgin Islands and Guam.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Swimming in industry propaganda

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Duke Energy hires a professional liar to represent their interests:

Rudo and Duke’s expert, Lisa Bradley, a nationally known expert in coal ash toxicology, also clashed over the chemical element vanadium. They split over whether the state had issued “do not drink” recommendations to dozens of well owners based on vanadium findings less than those people routinely encounter safely in everyday life.

“So you’re getting more in your daily vitamin than you would drinking water at that screening level,” Bradley said of the state’s trigger level for issuing “do not drink” warnings for vanadium found in wells.

Wall Street is betting you and I will pay for coal ash cleanup

And Duke Energy shareholders are already reaping the benefits:

The aforementioned state legislation imposed a moratorium on Duke from seeking any sort of rate increase related to the clean-up through mid-January this year. But last week, the ratings agency Fitch upgraded Duke’s credit rating, in part reflecting the “significant, albeit manageable” coal-ash clean-up costs, as well as its expectation that the costs incurred will be recoverable from ratepayers.

Clearly, the market believes Duke will recover costs via ratepayers. The stock hit a high at the end of January, before the general correction in utilities sparked a selloff.

Once again we're entering the "tail wagging the dog" territory, where the stock market determines business behavior instead of the other way around, like it's supposed to. The same thing happened leading up to the mortgage crisis, and you see where that got us. Due to the NC Utilities Commission's bent responsibility to ensure utilities remain "profitable," Duke Energy can legally argue that not allowing them to recover costs from ratepayers will bring down their stock values, thus hurting their overall profits. The fact that Duke's stock price was artificially inflated in anticipation of the NCUC's ruling will not even be mentioned, unless the public representative or somebody like NCWARN brings it up. That's no way to do the people's business.

The fallacy of cutting teacher assistants in K-3

Sliding back into mediocrity:

It is instructive to understand how teacher assistants came about in the first place. The position was first created and funded by the state as part of the 1975 Primary Reading Program. The goal of the program was to improve literacy among children in early grades. My mother was among the first group of teacher assistants hired in the state.

Significantly improved student achievement scores followed. It makes sense – adding another instructor immediately cut the ratio of student-to-educator in half, which gave more time for individualized attention to struggling students.

That student-to-educator ratio is the key, not only to better learning outcomes, but to basic issues dealing with health and safety, too. For the last couple of hours, I've been perusing child-to-caregiver ratios from various states for the licensing of day cares, and the ratio for children aged 6-12 varies between 1:15 and 1:19 or so. When you increase the ratio beyond these levels, significant safety issues emerge, even with children in the upper age range. If you don't believe that, volunteer as a chaperone on a school field trip for 2nd or 3rd graders. I dare you.

With Cope gone, SEANC wakes from its slumber

Only to find itself in an anti-government nightmare:

Buried deep in the Senate budget proposal that lawmakers passed last week is a provision that would eliminate state-paid health retirement benefits for teachers and state employees who are hired after January 1, 2016. “This puts the state at a major disadvantage in the recruitment and retention of state employees, teachers, and university faculty compared to other states,” said Chuck Stone, director of operations for the State Employees Association of NC (SEANC), of the Senate’s push to jettison the health retirement benefit.

Dana Cope always prided himself on knowing what Legislators were planning to do, and working his little back-room deals that (supposedly) benefited his members. But aside from throwing NCAE under the bus over the paycheck dues issue, the rest appears to have been smoke and mirrors:

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