UNHAPPY LEGISLATORS SLING MUD AT COURT: The legislature’s redistricting plans have invariably been concocted in secret, keeping motives and methods far from the view of the public they serve. GOP leaders have also relied on their own taxpayer-financed “outside expert” for help drawing the gerrymandered maps, which is conveniently forgotten amid their outrage over Persily’s alternative plan. There’s no mystery about what Persily’s done or how he’s done it. He has been open, transparent and explicit about his methods and criteria. Legislators and others have had broad opportunities for input. Rather than seeking ways to minimize some voters’ voices, Persily worked to give all voters a full voice in picking their representatives. The only transparency coming out of the General Assembly these days is the hyper-partisan, inappropriate and insulting braying to impugn the work of a bipartisan panel of judges -- working simply to bring fairness to North Carolina’s elections.
NORTH CAROLINA SHOULD RESTORE UNEMPLOYMENT CUTS: A report this week by The Century Foundation, a national public policy think tank, details how North Carolina has one of the least generous and most restrictive unemployment insurance programs of any state in the U.S., despite a dramatic turnaround in the state’s unemployment trust fund, which has gone from more than $2.5 billion in debt to a $3 billion surplus. So who has benefited from this economic recovery? Not workers or the unemployed. North Carolina has kept in place its 12-week limit on receiving assistance – currently the lowest in the country. The maximum benefit amount has remained frozen, too. As a result, only one in 10 jobless workers in North Carolina receive an unemployment payment in 2017, the third-lowest in the country. That’s down from 43 percent in 2009. It is our obligation to fulfill the government’s promise to support these workers as they find their next job, especially when we have the means to do it.
AS DEADLINE APPROACHES, NC'S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION SHOULD DEMAND OBAMACARE SIGNUP EXTENSION: It is no accomplishment to kill something of value by starving it to death. The only redemption: In the slowness of the process there is the chance for everyone to clearly see what will be missed. Such is the case with President Donald Trump and the congressional and legislative Republicans’ effort to abolish the Affordable Care Act. Failing to find the public support to immediately kill the program (why else weren’t they able to get the votes in a Congress they control?), they are making it as difficult as possible for Americans to participate. The assault on Obamacare has been to provide less time and make it more difficult and confusing to sign up. The “good” news – North Carolina ranks third – at 209,500 enrollees – among the 39 states that use HealthCare.gov and the federal exchange to enroll participants for insurance coverage. Enrollment here trails Texas and Florida.
LEGISLATURE LIMITS JUDGES' DISCRETION: It’s bad enough that rising court costs in North Carolina put onerous, long-term burdens on many people. It’s worse that judges are now hindered in their ability to waive fines and fees for individuals who have no means to pay. A provision in the state budget that took effect Dec. 1 requires courts to give 15 days’ notice to a list of agencies that receive funds from penalties before a judge can waive fees. That supposedly gives those parties a chance to object. But it seems intended to create so much red tape that courts will become too tangled up to grant waivers. The effect is to maintain a court system unique in the country for the amount of money it squeezes out of people unfortunate enough to be caught in the justice system. In North Carolina, the legislature is turning courts into a self-funding operation — and putting excess revenue into its general fund. But when indigents are jailed because they can’t pay, the expense of locking them up is carried by counties.
PRESIDENT TRUMP'S TERRIBLE DECISION ON JERUSALEM AFFECTS ISRAELIS, MIDEAST: There he was again, doing the part of his job as president he seems to enjoy most of all: Donald Trump, his ever-present scowl in place, holding up a signed order – his signature is show-business large, of course – recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The problem with Trump’s move, which fulfills a promise he made during his presidential campaign, is that it will most emphatically alienate Palestinians and make the possibility of a peace negotiation and settlement – which he also promised, of course – all the more unlikely. The president seems to have no understanding of the delicate nature of Mideast diplomacy, with his top priority being able to check off another “promise kept” from his campaign list, no matter what its implications may be for roiling things in this already-volatile part of the world.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
TOM KERKHOFF: LESSONS LEARNED ON CONSENT STILL MEANINGFUL: At the age of 13, I was enrolled in a dancing class along with my sister. Not only did we learn to dance, social amenities came along with the program. Here are some of them: 1. You never stepped on your dance partner’s toes. 2. After the dance was over, you escorted her back to her seat. 3. You never shook a girl’s hand unless she extended her hand to you first. 4. Always treat her with respect, to include never engaging in physical contact without her consent. These rules were unconditional. There were no exceptions. Follow the rules, boys, and you should be just fine with the girls. Seems to me these lessons would be appropriate in today’s social atmosphere. I was taught these lessons 70 years ago and they’re still meaningful.
MARY WESSLING: ROY MOORE DEFENDERS DON'T SWAY ME: Charles Davenport’s and Romaine Worster’s columns of Dec. 3 are callous renderings of a serious issue of abuse and cannot go unchallenged. Davenport wants proof. The eight women who came forward are not proof enough because it happened a long time ago and they may be prone to lie — all of them for political reasons. Worster and Davenport draw up old cases to illustrate how lies can damage a reputation. Sorry, but pedophiles don’t get a defense in my book. Davenport hailed Roy Moore by claiming he “is a refreshingly courageous and fiery defender of traditional, right-of-center beliefs.” Refreshing? No. A master of hate and fear-mongering, yes. Wishing to punish homosexuals and women who choose abortion, and defending fellow pedophiles aren’t traditions one should rally to uphold.
MARY JANE MARSHBANKS: STATE DECISIONS LEAVE THE POOR DOWN AND OUT WHEN IT COMES TO LEGAL AID: Regarding “Center for Civil Rights lawyers have been fired ahead of schedule” (Dec. 2): The phrase defining people as “down and out” is a good title for what is going on in North Carolina. These people who were already down because they could not afford attorneys to argue their cases have been pushed out of the justice system because members of the General Assembly, many of them attorneys, have cut funding for the Public Defender’s Office. Then the UNC System Board of Governors, some of them attorneys, has forced the closure of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, pushing more of those who are “down” out. I keep waiting for the attorneys involved in these decisions to volunteer their legal services to those whom they have forced out of the justice system.