Senator Kinnaird: Report from the asylum

Via email, from a steady voice of sanity amongst the crazies:

Dear Friends,

Two big pieces of news this week: the bills Governor Perdue has vetoed and the release of the Congressional maps. I’ll go through the vetoed bills in next week’s newsletter.

The pertinent story on the Congressional maps for Orange and Person counties are the changes to their districts. What is startling about David Price’s 4th District is that no longer is it tied to a common “community of interest” of the Triangle, which is one of the criteria in drawing the lines, but reaches from Hillsborough in Orange County to Fayetteville in Cumberland County! I’m not sure those military folks feel a common tie to the peaceniks in Orange County.

Representative Miller’s district encompassing Person County is about the same as his present district, with the addition of some strongly Republican precincts in Wake County. David won’t have any trouble being elected since his district is packed with Democrats, but Brad will have a hard time with the new precincts. Talk about gerrymandering. The districts look like a scoop of the weirdest looking sea creatures ever seen pasted on a map of North Carolina. The map is available on line for those who want to see it.

State Legislative districts are drawn entirely differently because the Republicans ten years ago objected to the Democrats map using the same tactics and went to court. What resulted is that counties must be kept whole and be contiguous. Were that so in the Congressional districts.

Now for more wrap up of bills passed.

As a result of the Study bill some good issues will be thoroughly looked at. The Department of Commerce in conjunction with the NC Utilities Commission and the NC Solar Center (that was the program that was cut out of the House budget and fortunately restored in the Senate budget) will study the recruitment of offshore wind turbine and solar manufacturers. This will encourage job creation and recruitment of industries to North Carolina that are thriving in Europe and China. We need to develop that industry here.

What seemed like a good idea, turned into one of controversy. One of our Democratic Senators along with several House members sponsored a bill called the Founding Principles Act to require the teachings of the founders of our country. It would explain the structure of government, the separation of powers with checks and balances, equal justice under the law, due process, individual rights as set forth in the Bill of Rights, among other subjects. But it had a few stumbling blocks which we thought we had removed. But in the end there was a hue and cry that this was a subterfuge by the far right to inject the teaching of religion and the exalting of private property into the high school curriculum. (A passing grade is required in the course.) There is also concern that it will replace existing courses that are broader in scope.

Parking when visiting a museum or the capital will cost more. Currently it so $1.00 per hour but will double to $2.00. (When is a tax not a tax - well about $100 million of these fees in the budget?) That might be a burden on a family, but luckily, the museums are still free.

Former incarcerated people can now earn a certificate that will allow them to obtain a professional license to get employment. Finding a decent job when a person has a conviction is very difficult and leads to the revolving door to prison where housing a prisoner costs $27,000 a year. Steady employment is critical in determining whether a person will commit another crime or become a productive member of society. Without that help, most come back to prison within three years. This will change current law that anyone convicted of a felony is prohibited from obtaining licenses for about 700 occupations. Law enforcement, faith and non-profit groups supported the bill.

North Carolina has allowed countless special message license plates. This year the controversy grew over two issues: the color and pictures of background of the plates people are so fond of and adding a Choose Life plate. Because there are such a large variety of plates, law enforcement can’t always tell the are North Carolina plates. They would like a single uniform plate instantly recognizable plate. I contend that people who buy such plates aren’t likely to be criminals. (I ran a plate for libraries some years ago, but they didn’t sell the required 300. All you library lovers help us out.) The other controversy was over the Choose Life plate. I spoke against it because no plate has ever carried a political or controversial message. Those of us opposed to the plate offered an amendment that would have said, Respect Choice but it failed to pass. I voted against the bill, that passed easily with but one Republican dissent and the Governor signed it into law.

Another controversial bill, even within our Democratic Caucus, was the E-verify bill. This bill requires employers to use a federal system called E-Verify to confirm that the people they hire are in the country legally. There are two large exemptions: it only applies to employers of 25 workers or more. That might exempt landscapers, janitor services, even some small restaurants. Contractors could also hire sub-contractors with fewer than 25 people as a subterfuge. The other exemption is for agricultural employers who hire workers for only up to 90 days. There are those who feel that employers take advantage of workers they know are here illegally, and underpay (or sometimes don’t even pay them) thus driving down wages for legal workers. An African-American construction worker told me he would often approach an employer to ask for work, only to be told they weren’t hiring, but the next day he would see several Hispanic workers there. On the other side, when illegal workers are deported because of this program, it breaks up families. Large companies already use E-verify so the loop-holes mean that not much will change. Finally, the system is not always accurate, leading to some who are here legally being wrongly tagged as

Since Congress isn’t likely to pass meaningful immigration legislation, I think one of the best solutions is to pass the Dream Act. This would allow children who were brought here by their parents at a young age and have graduated from high school, may either attend college or go into the military and obtain citizenship. I have urged our two U.S. Senators to pass this bill. Sen. Hagan was one of the deciding votes that killed it last time around but some say she is softening.

As we enjoyed this weekend commemorating the founding of our country, please remember that within the last two weeks, 27 of our military in Afghanistan and Iraq have died.


Choose life

Look for a new hate crime to be passed into law next year: Trashing a Choose Life car will become a capital crime.

I wonder...

I wonder if putting leaflets for Choice on the windshield of Choose Life cars would be considered a crime. Hm.... I've got an idea.

Regarding the 4th

Regarding the 4th congressional district the path to Fayetteville goes north to south through the center of Harnett County. Lillington and Bunnlevel are about the only areas in the county that consistantly vote for Democrats. Basically the 4th district heads through Lillington and Bunnlevel to the Cumberland Co. line. This does several things. 1) It takes a major challenger to Renee Ellmers (Bob Etheridge) out of the 2nd. 2) It takes large numbers of voters that lean Democratic (Central Harnett and Stewarts Creek precients)out of the 2nd and into the 4th. 3) It splits Harnett County into three parts, east, middle, and west, thus deluting any influence that a fast growing rural/bedroom community area might have, given that the 114k citizens will constitute a very small percentage of all three (2,4,6th) districts. 4) It places these citizens in districts that they have very little in common with.

Rural western Harnett Co. is at the far tip of and will be a very small part of a 6th district represented by a Greensboro Republican. About the only other place Harnett County might have less in common with would have to be Chapel Hill. So there we are in the 4th district as well. At least Rep. Price will have to drive through Harnett to get to Fayetteville. Hopefully he will stop off once in a while and see how we are doing. Where is the logical place for Harnett County? It is with Johnston and Sampson Counties in the 2nd, but only a small part is in that one.

It makes sense that densely populated counties would have to be split in order to equally distribute the population in to each of the 13 congressional districts. But a county with 114 thousand people? It only makes since to try and keep these smaller counties intact or as a last resort divided no more that once. That is of course if their goal is to fairly and compactly draw congressional districts. Now if their intent is to go against everything they have preached for (fair nonpartisan creation of districts) in the last 50 years for purely partisan political gain, well I guess they have hit the nail on the head.

I'm a moderate Democrat.