scharrison's blog

Mark Meadows: Making government less accountable

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If you don't like the data, get rid of the analysts:

On Monday—the same day the president attacked political rivals in a speech to Boy Scouts and the U.S. Senate prepared to vote on a health care bill that no one had actually seen—Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus and representative of North Carolina's Eleventh Congressional District, proposed his own means of undermining democratic norms.

His big idea: gut the Congressional Budget Office, the agency that has consistently projected that GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare would leave more than twenty million Americans without coverage. In an amendment introduced Monday, Meadows proposed slashing eighty-nine positions from the agency's Budget Analysis Division, a $15 million cut that would effectively abolish the division.

While it may be doubtful this amendment will have any legs, his real motive for it may be even more ominous than the amendment itself: It sends a chilling message to those analysts that their future data and reports need to be more supportive of the majority's policies, or else. These bullying tactics are rooted in the Tea Party movement itself, which relies on fear of retribution to get its way, instead of scholarly debate, which it simply isn't qualified to engage in. And probably more than anyone else, Mark Meadows has capitalized on that formula, vaulting himself into a position of leadership of a caucus he created for that sole purpose. North Carolina in general, and the 11th District in particular, owes an apology to the rest of the nation for sending this petty tyrant to DC.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Insurance companies say "Nope" on paying for cleanup

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One big reason Duke Energy is trying to make us pay:

Dozens of insurance companies say they’re not obligated to help pay for Duke Energy Corp.’s multi-billion dollar coal ash cleanup because the nation’s largest electric company long knew about but did nothing to reduce the threat of potentially toxic pollutants.

The claim is in a filing by lawyers for nearly 30 international and domestic insurance companies that were sued by Duke Energy in March to force them to cover part of the utility’s coal ash cleanup costs in the Carolinas.

In a perfect world, the NC Utilities Commission would be keeping a close eye on this civil case, and if the defendants prove their case that Duke Energy was at fault and should be responsible for shouldering the costs of cleaning up their coal ash, the NCUC would deny Duke's rate increase request on the same grounds. And if Duke Energy won against the insurance companies and they were forced to pay, then there would be no need to jack up our rates. But we don't live in that perfect world, and Duke Energy is notorious for being able to conceal the big picture when they want something. Here's more:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

The show is about to begin, but nobody knows what it's about:

And if you want to see what it is, you'll have to buy the ticket first:

Is Raleigh's Airbnb kerfuffle turning into the new "Free Market" battlefield?

A business model in dire need of government regulation:

Like many cities, Raleigh is grappling with how to regulate Airbnb and companies like it. Unlike hotels and traditional bed and breakfasts, Airbnb is unregulated in most places. In Raleigh, Airbnb hosts don't collect or pay state or local sales tax, or the local hotel occupancy tax, which in Wake County is set at 6 percent. Airbnb rentals aren't required to get a business license or special-use permit. Nor do they have to submit to health and safety inspections. Hosts don't even have to tell their neighbors that they're renting rooms, though the information is publicly available on Airbnb's website.

Personally, I have no desire to spend the night in a stranger's house, and my one experience with a bonafide B&B was a little too personal, if you catch my drift. My door got knocked on like six times, and I was barely able to keep Evil Steve from yelling, "What now, for God's sake!" But that's just me. The above article is from 2 1/2 years ago, but the "task force" empaneled to solve this problem just recently hammered out some recommendations for a proposed ordinance. Pay close attention to who is co-chairing the group:

DuPont/Chemours plant still discharging GenX despite promise to cease

Playing a dangerous game with the health of downstream citizens:

Chemours said on June 21 it would voluntarily stop discharging GenX into the Cape Fear from its Fayetteville plant. On June 27, the NCDEQ verified Chemours had stopped.

However, the NCDEQ said on July 12 that additional sources of GenX were still being discharged into the river from the Chemours site after June 27.

On July 13, NCDEQ confirmed that the discharging of GenX from the Chemours complex had ended.

This timeline shows the folly of NC regulators' tendency to prefer self-regulation by private companies over applying strict rules. That "voluntary" decision to stop discharges just happened to coincide with water testing that was in process, so the declaration was already suspect. But that promise also (apparently) superseded/supplanted the need for DEQ to order them to stop. Chemours beat them to the punchline, and they may have done so because they knew more discharges would be needed to get rid of that crap, and were relying on regulatory ambiguity to continue a little longer. Whatever the case, they broke their promise, and DEQ needs to take appropriate steps before they end up owning part of this disaster. Here's a warning to stockholders from the Motley Fool:

One hour left before candidate filing in NC municipal elections closes

The clock is ticking:

Candidates seeking to file for the 2017 municipal elections will be able to file their notice of candidacy at their county board of elections starting at 12:00 noon on Friday July 7, 2017 and ending at 12:00 noon on Friday, July 21. To file, a candidate will need to submit a Notice of Candidacy to their county board of elections either by mail or in person during the filing period. In order to prevent the premature filing of the form, the Notice of Candidacy forms will be available approximately two weeks prior to the start of candidate filing. The filing form and the requisite filing fee must be received by the county board of elections before the filing period ends.

Sorry about the last-minute thing, but (for some reason) I thought filing ended at 5:00 p.m.

"Not off our coast." Governor Cooper comes out swinging against offshore drilling

No ambiguity at all in this statement:

“It’s clear that opening North Carolina’s coast to oil and gas exploration and drilling would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities—and for little potential gain,” said Gov. Cooper. “As Governor, I’m here to speak out and take action against it. I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast.”

A potential oil spill could decimate North Carolina’s coastal tourism and commercial fishing industries, both major economic drivers for the region. Coastal tourism in North Carolina generates more than $3 billion annually, supporting more than 30,000 jobs.

Boom. What a difference between this man and McCrory, who actually invited Big Oil to set up shop in his own office. Which became the headquarters for the Outer Continental Shelf Governor's Association, who were hell-bent on scattering offshore oil rigs all over the Southeastern seaboard, and allowed industry reps to dominate what were supposed to be public hearings in coastal communities. Just one more reason the voters kicked McCrory to the curb.

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