TILLIS' "TRANSFORMED" NORTH CAROLINA A ROSY FANTASY: Sen. Thom Tillis so desperately wants to make North Carolina a red state he’s taken to wearing rose-tinted glasses. Tillis, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, discusses tax cuts he helped ram through the General Assembly while he served as House speaker. Readers perusing the piece could be forgiven if they came away thinking the former state House speaker had paved the streets with gold, made public school teachers’ supply closets overflow with resources, given state workers big raises, ended waiting lines at the DMV, slashed costs for university students and made sure everyone had easy and affordable access to health care. While Tillis claimed he held off hordes of special interest lobbyists seeking special tax breaks in his so-called tax reforms, the truth is he worked hand-in-hand with the business lobbyists to deliver a huge corporate tax cut that hasn’t stimulated the economy, nor led to further investment.
GOVERNMENT SHOULDN'T LIMIT WOMEN'S BIRTH CONTROL ACCESS: In my home state alone, nearly 75 percent of unplanned births were publicly-funded, with federal and state governments spending nearly $860 million on unintended pregnancies. An investment in contraception is one the best examples we have of a health care cost-saving measure. The Medicaid program, which already provides no-cost contraceptives to eligible individuals, is proof. Every $1 spent on publicly funded family planning services saves $7 that would have been spent on maternity and infant care. However, as a physician, I know the ability to avoid pregnancy amounts to more than just dollars and cents. It can be lifesaving for women who already face serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. As we work to improve our nation’s health care system, our government must not take any action that would leave our patients worse off than they are today. And we start by not eliminating services and protections for the people who need them the most.
DUKE ENERGY NEEDS TO KEEP FAITH WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY COMPROMISE: When hard-earned compromises are worked out between renewable energy interests and North Carolina’s utility monopoly Duke Energy, the deals still must overcome reflexive opposition from powerful luddites in the General Assembly. Such was the case recently with a crucial series of reforms, worked out over nearly a year of tough negotiations. A cornerstone of the effort was a competitive bidding process for new solar development aimed at increasing competition for the renewables industry. While renewable energy advocates say the law was designed to level the playing field because of Duke Energy’s monopoly, some now complain that Duke is using the rule-making process to increase its advantage. During an energy policy conference in Charlotte earlier this week, legislators involved in shepherding the compromise through the General Assembly were concerned it could evaporate and jeopardize the significant potential it offered to the state’s economy.
IN NC, IT'S TIME TO INVOKE THE CONSTITUTION'S ANTI-TYRANT CLAUSE: When dissatisfied with the results of the gubernatorial and attorney general elections, the General Assembly moved to significantly debilitate and intrude upon both offices – despite North Carolina’s constitutional command that “the legislative, executive and judicial powers shall forever be separate and distinct.” Announcing all-encompassing ascendancy, legislators proclaimed an appropriate separation of powers means, as Humpty Dumpty put it, “just what [we] choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” Republican supremacy, it turns out, is the only standard that matters. Nor have local government elections been spared. Disfavored results have simply been voided – as in a banana republic. Like good totalitarians, Republican leaders effectively declared: We believe in democracy only so long as Tar Heels vote the way we prefer. A Guarantee Clause challenge to the General Assembly’s legislative program is, no doubt, a long shot. Or even worse. But it shouldn’t be. The Guarantee Clause is the constitution’s anti-tyrant provision.
COAL ASH PITS ARE "TICKING TIME BOMBS": The premise underlying nearly a half century of U.S. environmental law is that no one has a right to poison the air and water that all Americans consume. Under Scott Pruitt’s direction, the Environmental Protection Agency seems just fine with increasing Americans’ exposure to industrial toxins as long as it fulfills President Donald Trump’s promise to revive the nation’s moribund coal industry. Coal-burning utilities produce an estimated 110 million tons of coal ash annually, storing it in giant pits. One former EPA top official has described the storage pits as “ticking time bombs.” Guidelines for the EPA’s proposed changes, issued Aug. 15, included requirements for states seeking to deviate from federal coal ash rules to come up with specifically designed policies. Watchdog groups say the standards are too loose, too utility-friendly and will permit states to weaken regulatory enforcement below federal standards.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BARBARA HADDAD RYAN: STILL WAITING FOR FIRSTS IN GENDER EQUALITY: Regarding “Disdain for women who cover sports an old story” (Oct. 8): This is just the latest chapter in women journalists’ attempts to be treated equally. And their struggle is especially tough in broadcasting. When I attended Columbia University’s School of Journalism in 1960, the official network line went, “women’s voices lack authority.” The only national beat reporter at NBC News at the time was Pauline Frederick at the United Nations. And a (male) friend at NBC later told me the only reason Frederick had that assignment was that no man wanted it. This was in the era when the National Press Club in Washington consigned women journalists to the balcony at events featuring guest speakers. As for my Columbia class, we had about 80 members. Only a dozen were women, and four had been sent by their editors in Helsinki, Tokyo, Buenas Aires and Bombay (as it was then called). Two were from the Pentagon’s press office. None were in broadcasting. There were no full-time females on the faculty, but our adjunct instructors did include role models like Judith Crist of the late Herald Tribune and Betsy Wade, a top copy editor at the Times. In 1969 the Denver Post made me “the first woman editorial writer on a major western daily.” What took them so long? And why are we still waiting for so many other “firsts?”
ANNE CASSEBAUM: POLITICIANS NEED TO ANSWER WAR QUESTIONS: If the writers of the Constitution were alive today, they might well ask: Where’s Congress? They gave our representatives and senators the power to decide about going to war as a check on presidents. Congress has not declared war since 1941 though we have become an empire waging endless wars by other names. “And where are the citizens?” might be their next question since we keep in office those who ignore this duty and don’t push for diplomacy. We could start being active citizens by pressing U.S. representatives Mark Walker or David Price and Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis for answers to some questions: Will you support HR 669/SB 200 Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act so that no president has dictatorial powers to start a nuclear war without Congressional approval? A nuclear first strike is certainly going to war. Will you repeal the Authorization of the Use of Military Force [AUMF] which has been used to justify 37 attacks on 14 countries since 2001? Senators Burr and Tillis voted against the repeal. Will you speak out against President Trump’s threats and urge working out a compromise with North Korea? Will you co-sponsor bipartisan HCR 81 to end U.S. support never authorized by Congress of the Saudi attack on Yemen. The war has put more than 20 million Yemeni at risk from famine and the worst cholera outbreak ever recorded. Positive answers to these questions could restore checks and balances and make both America and the world more secure. It could also mean more of our tax money and troops could go into rebuilding, rather than destroying.
VALORIE JONES: A NO TO GOP ATTEMPT AT JUDICIAL GERRYMANDERING: Regarding “Judges to NC lawmakers: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix us.’ ” (Sept. 29): It is absolutely vital that the judiciary of North Carolina remain independent and nonpartisan. With the intense gerrymandering of voting districts by the GOP and with the General Assembly doing everything possible to adjust, re-work, review, eliminate and slant all aspects of our government to give Republicans an overwhelmingly unfair advantage, the judiciary is our only hope of having fair elections and no “banana republic.”