NCGA

Next on the GOP's chopping block: Health care for state employees

Your family members need not apply:

State employees could lose access to a popular health insurance option and see costs for other options rise under changes the North Carolina State Health Plan board of trustees is due to vote on Friday.

Executives who run the health plan, which covers state workers, teachers and retirees, have also recommended that the board consider eliminating coverage for spouses, likely sending most of them to shop for coverage on Affordable Care Act exchanges.

The wording in the Budget that forced this horrible idea should be considered a precursor of a Taxpayer's Bill Of Rights (TABOR) if that poison pill is ever put before the voters. And I have little confidence the voters would be able to see past the hype and pseudo-patriotic language to understand how damaging it would be.

Duke Energy-funded "advisory board" recommends they not spend billions relocating coal ash

How can you afford advisory boards if you spend all that money?

An advisory board created by Duke Energy says all of the company’s coal ash ponds in North Carolina can safely be capped in place.

When asked by the Charlotte Business Journal about possible criticism that the Advisory Board is “bought and paid for” by Duke Energy, Daniels said: “All these reports have been submitted, signed and sealed by professional engineers and scientists… They are professionals, and that matters more than who they are working for.”

The first thing that popped into my head reading that declaration of professionalism was the Bush quote "Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity." Just because you're a professional it doesn't mean you're not prone to bias or withholding information that could be damaging to your clients. Lawyers are professionals too, and "who they are working for" is a consideration that eclipses all others, including the truth.

Taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ students

We reserve the right to be bigoted and exclusionary:

“Sexual relationships outside of marriage and sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are immoral and sinful. The depth of the sinfulness of homosexual practice is recognized, and yet we believe the grace of God sufficient to overcome both the practice of such activity and the perversion leading to its practice.”

Lee Christian, the document states, reserves the right to deny admission or expel a student should the “atmosphere or conduct within” the home on these issues run contrary to the private school’s beliefs.

So it's not only LGBT students who are discriminated against; if a straight child's parents are in a same sex relationship, or the single parent of the child engages in such a relationship, however short-term it may be, the student can get the boot. One might be tempted to declare, "Who would want to send their child into such a cultish educational environment?" But that's not the point. The point is, the school should *not* be eligible for taxpayer dollars, regardless of the route that money takes to get there. Parents given vouchers should not be able to "choose" a school that discriminates in such a fashion. That money has to come with some caveats, and this should be at the top of the list.

Van der Vaart: Restrict Solar, incentivize nuclear

Apparently our definition of the word "clean" has been wrong until now:

One proposal discussed Wednesday would require a state permit for any new solar farm. That would give the state the final say on whether a property owner can lease his or her land for solar. It would also require a bond for eventual removal of the equipment.

"We are a huge solar state, and we have to put our big boy pants on and treat it as such," Secretary of Environmental Quality Donald van der Vaart told the Energy Policy Council.

Where do I start? I'm tempted to start with "big boy pants," but that's so stupid it could derail the entire conversation. How about: When Bev Perdue was still Governor but the GOP had taken over the Legislature, that august body engaged in a fact-finding tour, with the sole purpose of undermining DENR. Witness after witness whined about the over-regulation of the environmental agency, and how the sluggish permitting process was stifling economic growth. And now the new Secretary is proposing to do just that; clamp down on property owners and "control" the growth of Solar via bureaucratic delays and costly (and unnecessary) safety protocols. If irony was a toxic substance, we'd all be dead by now. But even worse, van der Vaart's alternative could actually kill us:

Voter ID trial update: Fraud would be "extremely irrational"

Just like the nut-jobs who worry about a manufactured crisis:

Minnite said that it's extremely irrational for a person to intentionally pose as someone else at the polls. There's a big risk of getting caught, she said. And having a photo ID requirement isn't likely to deter someone who's that intent on deceiving people, she said. More than likely, if a person is that determined to commit voter fraud, that person would get a fake photo ID, she said.

Strach, however, argued that there is simply no way for a poll worker to know if voters are telling the truth about who they are.

Of course they can't "know" for sure if somebody is telling the truth, but they can make a reasonable assumption based on how stupid it would be to risk going to jail to cast one (or even twenty) fraudulent votes. We shouldn't even be talking about this, much less having to go to court to stop it. To make changes to voting access based on "what if's" and not overwhelming evidence is, in itself, proof of the nefarious purpose behind these laws. Unfortunately, this whole legal process is flawed. We have to prove the GOP intentionally passed these laws to make exercising their Constitutional rights harder for some people, but they didn't have to prove a damn thing before passing the laws themselves. No matter how stupid/unnecessary/burdensome these laws are, in the absence of a smoking gun, the judge will end up siding with the Legislature. I hope I'm proven wrong.

Economic growth of a toxic nature

Nail polish manufacturer Coty to expand Sanford operation:

Cosmetics giant Coty Inc. is moving OPI nail polish manufacturing from North Hollywood to North Carolina. All production and distribution operations for OPI Products Inc. are being switched to Coty's largest U.S. manufacturing facility in Sanford, N.C., Coty said in a statement.

"Our ambitions for OPI's sustainable growth and expansion require enhanced manufacturing facilities," the company said, adding that their North Carolina plant is "best-in-class" and capable of supporting the nail brand's growth.

This won't come as a jaw-dropping surprise to anybody, but nail polish products are very nasty and should never come into contact with humans, especially not pregnant humans:

Op-ed on offshore drilling by Duke University professor

deepwaterhorizon.jpg

The dangers far outweigh the benefits:

The existence or importance of climate change is questioned by many, especially those who like to drive big SUVs to the beach on weekends. About the only argument I can see holding any water will come from those well-heeled individuals who own coastal real estate or who wish to develop coastal areas for others to enjoy.

Lessons from the Deep-Water Horizon or Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are instructive. Phytoplankton biomass in Gulf waters was 85 percent lower after the oil spill. Some of the reduction might have been caused by the massive use of oil dispersants on the 5 million barrels of oil that flowed from the seabed. Lower phytoplankton biomass translates directly into lower fish and shellfish populations, which feed on phytoplankton.

Just want to add something often overlooked: Most people work from the assumption that land-based flora (trees, plants, etc.) provide most of our planet's new oxygen creation and carbon uptake. But in reality, about 60% of that function is performed by ocean microorganisms, plankton (both types) in particular. We screw them up, and there's no coming back. Here's something else the esteemed author left out of the conversation:

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