NC DENR no longer concerned about protecting NC's wetlands

And it does not bode well for the state's water quality:

The state rejected a federal grant meant to strengthen wetlands protections and then announced the eventual abolishment of a key wetlands program. It decided not to review a federal wetlands permit in the western part of the state, as is customary and required under federal law, and determined that no wetlands were being filled in a large land-clearing operation in Pamlico County. Budgets and staff have been cut at the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, or DENR, the agency most responsible for protecting wetlands. In an ongoing department reorganization, key staff has been shifted and whole divisions have been abolished or moved to other state departments.

Perhaps even more troubling, some said in recent interviews, is what appears to be a discernible shift in attitude. DENR’s leaders have said they want the department to be more business-friendly. Will the remake lead to a more laissez-faire view of wetlands protection?

This is what happens when those in leadership positions are put there for political purposes, as opposed to their understanding of the science involved. Wetlands aren't just havens for a wide range of species, they serve a critical function in filtering nutrients and toxins from our water. And considering the massive increases in the volume and variety of pollutants our technologies have produced, we need them now more than ever. But all these "business-friendly" hacks see is undeveloped acreage. As to science? We don't need no stinking science:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Yes, I realize it's Monday, but I've got three platefuls tomorrow, so:

Hopefully any "deal" he gets will still include some jail time. *sigh* If it ain't one thing, it's something else.

Author's note: I've been trying to collect Tweets over more than just one day, so some of the Tweets/commentaries may be somewhat dated. Instead of constantly revising, I'll give you what my thoughts were at the time, right or wrong:

Public hearings scheduled for AQUA NC's massive rate increase

Be there or be square, and bring your own bottled water:

A public hearing will be held by the N.C. Utilities Commission on the proposed rate increase at 7 p.m. in the Forsyth County Courthouse, 200 N. Main St., courtroom 1A. Another one will be held Tuesday in Charlotte at 7 p.m., in the Mecklenburg County courthouse, 832 East Fourth St.

Aqua, which provides water and wastewater services to about 250,000 people in 52 counties, requested the rate increase in August to help recover past investments in capital improvements and operating expenses. The company has about 13,000 customers in Forsyth, Guilford, Surry and Stokes counties.

We'll try to follow up once a transcript of this meeting is posted (if it gets posted) on the NCUC website. Until then, if you happen to attend one of these meetings, we'd love some feedback.

Republican assault on the middle class continues

Saving for your children's college tuition will no longer be shielded from taxes:

It is one of roughly 40 tax breaks being eliminated under a sweeping new tax law approved by Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-led legislature this year that will lower personal and corporate income taxes. About 38,000 taxpayers took advantage of the 529 tax break and saved a collective $6.1 million in the 2011 tax year, according to the latest figures available from the state Department of Revenue.

“The tax reform effort was and continues to be focused on broadening the base, which means broadening the areas which can be taxed,” said Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican and tax plan architect.

By "broadening the base" he means shifting the revenue burden down to the middle- and lower-classes, while allowing the top to keep more of their ill-gotten gains "earnings." And by discouraging parental savings like this, the student loan burden will likely increase as well, so the interest will be collected on both ends of this raw deal. Thanks a lot, GOP.

DAG McCrory caption contest

Here's mine: "Striking the first blow in the war against back hair."

Boss Pope back in the New York Times

The man behind the curtain is exposed, again:

Outside, protesters were in a far less festive mood. They accused the owner of the discount chain, Art Pope, the state budget director, of bankrolling conservative candidates and supporting policies that hurt the store’s poor and minority shoppers.

“It may appear he’s contributing to the community because he has a business,” the Rev. Kojo Nantambu, the local N.A.A.C.P. president, said on Wednesday. “But those are only vehicles to be used to destroy the community.”

And Pope's explanation for why he targets poor neighborhoods does not hold water:

Great editorial on lack of transparency in DAG McCrory's administration

From my hometown paper, no less:

During both of his gubernatorial campaigns, Pat McCrory promised better transparency and said he would make it easier for the public to know what is going on in state government. Apparently he left out the disclaimer — “as long as they’re willing to pay for it.”

McCrory’s administration is setting a chilling precedent that could make it more difficult for average North Carolinians to get copies of public records that by law belong to the people. They’re your records, compiled and stored by people paid with your tax dollars. But McCrory and his top administrators have interpreted state law to mean they can charge exorbitant fees for fulfilling public records requests.

Just like everything else for sale in North Carolina's Republican-led government, information about the activities of this administration will cost you whatever the market can bear. That's what "running government like a business" is all about, and the only way to bring back sanity is to put the NC GOP back where it belongs, in the minority. Which brings us to the second (and more important) reason for putting up barriers to public records requests: to keep politically damaging facts from being exposed.

Voting rights case won't be heard until after election

Putting legal procedure ahead of legal rights:

Alexander Peters, a senior deputy attorney general for the state, maintained it would be unrealistic to complete discovery by April, which would be the deadline if a trial were to proceed next summer.

Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake said in her ruling a trial next year might not provide enough time to finish discovery, the process of collecting and sharing information in a case. She did leave open the possibility that a preliminary injunction would be filed, which would put the voting changes on hold.

Here's a little bit of common sense for you, if there's any room for that in the rarified atmosphere of a civil courtroom: if a law that potentially infringes on the civil rights of citizens is so complex it takes that much time to get a handle on it, shouldn't it be set on the legal shelf (injunction) until it can be legally vetted? Another question: if said bill only took 3 months for the NCGA to process it, while they were also processing hundreds of other bills, why will it take over a year to gather the evidence needed do defend it?

Tillis tries to defend tax reform with incoherent rambling

Of course, that's just a guess. Analysts are still trying to decipher what he said:

But Tillis, a 53-year-old former IBM executive who has the strong backing of the GOP establishment but is by no means the prohibitive front-runner, is betting that Southern Democrats who once thrived here are dying breeds because of the liberal policies coming out of Washington. He is defiant about North Carolina’s hard-right turn, calling it a “reform agenda unlike any other state in the United States.”

“I think for the most part, what I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers,” he said in an interview in his Raleigh office. “They lost, they don’t like it, and they are going to try to do everything they can to, I think, cast doubt on things that I think are wise and that the average citizen when they know what we’re doing, I think, like it.”

Um, what? Did Thom's doctor cut him off from caffeinated coffee or something? I think his repetitive use of the phrase "I think" (four times, no less) is an effort to jump-start his brain, not unlike when you get a straight-gear car rolling and then pop the clutch. It's not working.

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