THE WEIGHT OF HISTORY BEARS DOWN ON AMENDMENTS: James Madison, writing in the 1788 Federalist Papers No. 47, cited North Carolina for going too far at its outset in giving the legislative branch power to appoint the governor, as well as executive office-holders and judges. It was not until the 1835 state Constitution that North Carolina voters got the right to elect their governors. In the Federalist No. 48, Madison warned tartly that “the legislative department is everywhere extending the sphere of its activity, and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex.” And he observed that “the danger from legislative usurpations, which, by assembling all power into the same hands, must lead to the same tyranny as is threatened by executive usurpations.” No doubt Jim Holshouser — and perhaps even James Madison of Virginia — would have joined former governors Jim Hunt, Jim Martin, Mike Easley, Bev Perdue, and Pat McCrory in defining for voters the long-term consequences of power-shifting amendments to their own well-being.
THE NC BALLOT SHOULDN'T BE A RIDDLE. OR A LIE: N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate leader Phil Berger, knowing their veto-proof control of the legislature is in jeopardy, are rushing to do last-minute surgery on the state Constitution using a hammer and a screwdriver. Lawyers for Moore and Berger told a three-judge panel in Wake County Wednesday that when the legislature proposes amendments to the state Constitution, the language isn’t subject to outside editing for clarity or accuracy. The legislature alone, they say, is the arbiter of how a ballot question is written and neither the courts, the governor nor the public can demand that the wording be clear about an amendment’s effect. This imperial notion is the core of the Republican legislative leaders’ response to a lawsuit brought by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper that challenges two of the proposed amendments scheduled to appear on the November ballot. Cooper’s lawyers contend in court documents that the ballot questions “are difficult to understand accurately, are written to discriminate in favor of one outcome, and are unfair to the electorate.”
APPEAL REMINDS VOTERS LEGISLATIVE LEADERS ARE ELECTIONS CHEATERS: State Senate leader Phil Berger and Senate Elections Chairman Ralph Hise along with House Speaker Tim Moore and House Rules Chairman David Lewis were closely involved with putting the laws together changing judicial elections this year. No one should have known better how they’d work. They fought in court to uphold the laws that eliminated judicial primary elections and set out a different election process. There is little reason, other than a stubborn notion that insisting what is wrong is right will somehow make it so, to continue the legal fight. It may not have been what legislative leaders intended, but it is what they did and they’re stuck. Continuing the battle won’t change the rules, just waste taxpayer dollars. It will be a vivid reminder of just who has been working to manipulate elections and distort the will of the voters.
NC PUBLIC PENSIONS ARE IN GREAT SHAPE, STOP THE KNEE-JERK REACTIONS: North Carolina has the fifth largest public pension system in the United States, with more than $97 billion in assets. Begun in the 1930s, defined benefit pensions continue to be an industry standard and recruiter for public employees to build their futures, a carrot for those willing to work at public sector rates for a long-term benefit. Today though, it seems defined benefit plans are misunderstood as incapable of sustaining itself for future retirees. Unfunded liabilities—the amount of money required to fulfill future payment obligations beyond the present value of funds available to pay them—have become the villain of the public benefits narrative. And this misunderstanding is pertinent to North Carolina, where discussion of the pension system’s unfunded liabilities is often coupled with the unfunded liabilities of the massive State Health Plan. Combining the unfunded liabilities of our pension system and the State Health Plan makes for an intimidating number. Intimidating, yet deceptive. In reality, North Carolina’s pension system remains among the strongest in the United States.
JOHN BRENNAN: TRUMP'S DENIALS OF COLLUSION ARE HOGWASH: The already challenging work of the American intelligence and law enforcement communities was made more difficult in late July 2016, however, when Trump, then a presidential candidate, publicly called upon Russia to find the missing emails of Clinton. By issuing such a statement, Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent. Such a public clarion call certainly makes one wonder what Trump privately encouraged his advisers to do — and what they actually did — to win the election. While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him. Now more than ever, it is critically important that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators be allowed to complete their work without interference — from Trump or anyone else — so that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SARA INTNER, MD: STOP THE EPA'S ANTI-SCIENCE RULE: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed the “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule (83 FR 18768), which the agency claims will increase transparency and “public access to data and influential scientific information.” However, the proposed rule may instead exclude critical science and impede innovative new research. The proposal suggests that only research with publicly available data be considered for environmental regulations, which poses obstacles to current clinical and epidemiological research because of existing privacy laws. If implemented, the rule could prevent utilization of the best science available because prior studies that have been crucial could be excluded. The proposed rule will also directly impact children as toxic chemicals and inhalants have the most significant effects on kids as their bodies grow and develop. A 1997 EPA report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act showed that pollution reductions prevented over 200,000 early deaths and over 10 million lost IQ points in children. EPA is accepting comments on this rule through August 16. As a pediatrician and concerned citizen, I strongly urge health professionals to join me and submit comments to oppose this rule and protect public health.
DAVID SENGEL: PHIL BERGER JR'S ERRONEOUS COURT ORDER HURT CITIZENS NEAR PROPOSED ASPHALT PLANT: Recently, N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger Jr. authored an order that denies standing to a couple from Watauga County in their appeal of a case about a proposed asphalt plant near their home and on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway, Highway 421 near Boone. In the unpublished order, the first sentence of the “Factual and Procedural Background” contains four blatant errors. Whether intentional or just the work of a blundering clerk, there is no excuse for such sloppy work from the N.C. Court of Appeals. One local attorney commented that “all politics aside, this is one of the worst written findings I have ever read.” Those misstatements could well have persuaded the other judges to decide that the legal arguments of the case were not worth considering and so take the easy route of agreeing to dismiss standing. The increasing frequency of terrible standing decisions that limit the ability of neighboring landowners to intervene in zoning disputes so as to not bother big corporations and disturb profits is disturbing. That a county, a town and it citizens have spent three and a half years and hundreds of thousands of dollars and have yet to get a fair hearing (and will not unless the Supreme Court accepts a petition for discretionary review) means something is terribly wrong.
CAROL PELOSI: WHAT'S THE TRUE INTENT OF THE HUNTING AND FISHING AMENDMENT?: The proposed amendment “to protect the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife” may have a kicker in it: the sentence “Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.” Why was this sentence included? Is it a way to weaken or destroy rules and laws governing endangered species and environmental safeguards for animals threatened by a highway or development? What could it mean for commercial fishing limits? What is the intent of this sentence and how will it be interpreted? As someone who fears our current General Assembly wants to do away with environmental safeguards, I think it would be a wise course for voters to turn down this amendment and leave it to custom and current laws to safeguard the ability of North Carolinians to hunt and fish as we always have.