VOTERS MUST HOLD LEGISLATORS ACCOUNTABLE ON REDISTRICTING: Legislative leaders have given little assurance that they intend to create fair and balanced or even lawful legislative districts. The committees’ leaders will cry crocodile tears, complaining that overbearing judges have imposed a tight deadline that will allow only limited public participation. House and Senate Redistricting Chairmen Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, already are blaming the judges, who frankly have been far too tolerant of legislative procrastination and secrecy. “While we had originally planned to set aside additional time to receive comments from North Carolinians and hold a statewide public hearing on criteria across the state, we have said all along that we will comply with the federal court’s order. Moving forward with this process over the next week will help us comply with the court’s deadline,” Lewis and Hise said in an announcement late Wednesday afternoon. Please! The court order is no excuse to limit or diminish public participation. This is 2017, not 1817. It is an automobile parking lot under the Legislative Building, not stables. Those are computers and smartphones on the desks, not parchment, inkwells and quills.
NC CITIZENS WILL BE HURT BY CUTS TO ATTORNEY GENERAL: The last-minute nature of a $10 million cut to the state attorney general’s office was one clue that this was a petty, purely partisan maneuver on the part of Republican leaders of the General Assembly. So was the round figure, bespeaking an arbitrary number that GOP lawmakers wanted to impose just because they could. And Democrat Josh Stein took the job, previously held by now-Gov. Roy Cooper, from Republican Buck Newton in a tight race. But this cut is serious, and it will have serious consequences for every resident of North Carolina. Yes, make no mistake: In their zeal to hurt Stein, Republicans laid waste to the AG’s office in a way that will hurt the prosecution of criminals, the enforcement of regulations protecting the environment and important to average residents, will weaken the consumer protections the AG enforces.
BURR AND TILLIS IN LOCKSTEP WITH GOP WITH ATTACKS ON AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: Just as we’ve heard for the last seven years, Burr, Tillis and their fellow travelers lashed out at the Affordable Care Act – mostly attacks aimed at former President Barack Obama. “Our health care system is still broken, costs continue to rise, and Americans have fewer options for health care coverage,” Burr said after the Senate failed in a third effort at repeal last week. “We cannot accept the status quo as Obamacare continues down an unstainable path and Congress has an obligation to keep pursuing solutions to fix our nation’s broken health care system,” said Tillis. Despite the ACA’s problems, the reality is that thousands of North Carolinians and millions of Americans today have health coverage who didn’t have it before. To them it’s not about Obama. They like that pre-existing conditions couldn’t be used to exclude anyone from coverage. They like that young adults 26 and younger – just getting started on their own – can remain on their parents’ plans.
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS: When they passed the ill-conceived program to hand taxpayers’ money to lower-income people to pay for private schools for their children, Republican lawmakers didn’t bother to point out the fine print – that the $4,200 maximum might not cover expenses such as food and transportation. And it also doesn’t cover the full tuition of private schools, many of which are church-affiliated. Kris Nordstrom, education finance and policy consultant for the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, noted that the majority of schools who participate in the program said the voucher money helps with the overall operation expenses of their schools and can ease the burden on eligible families who have kids who already are enrolled in the school. Said Nordstrom: “That’s a big sign that this isn’t as much motivated by giving new opportunities to students as it is subsidizing private school students that already exist.”
POLITICAL OPPONENTS AIM FOR LEGAL CENTER: Should a law center associated with the University of North Carolina participate in legal actions? The question sounds absurd. Of course it should. It’s like asking whether a medical center should practice medicine or an athletics department should field sports teams. But some members of the UNC Board of Governors take a different view. They’re considering a policy to bar UNC centers and institutes from filing legal complaints or lawsuits in their own name or on behalf of others or employing anyone to serve as counsel to parties in legal complaints. Other law schools give students the same litigation experience. The difference is that UNC does that within an affiliated but privately funded center on its campus. The objection is purely to the civil rights work the center was founded, and is funded, to do. The objection is political.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MATTHEW YANIK: PROPOSED SNAP CUTS PUT MILLIONS OF CHILDREN AT RISK: Nearly 20 percent of children in the U.S. live in households struggling against hunger. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has proposed drastic cuts to basic assistance programs including SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, putting nearly 20 million children at risk nationwide. Over 1.47 million Wake County residents are recipients of SNAP benefits, a majority of those being children, seniors, veterans and persons with disabilities. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that SNAP lifted 4.6 million people out of poverty in 2015. Despite the success, the president wants make drastic cuts to its funding of at least $10 billion, making it harder for many North Carolinians to put food on the table. Everyone must call on Raleigh’s U.S. Representatives, Congressmen David Price and George Holding, to protect and strengthen basic assistance programs like SNAP by opposing any efforts to make cuts in the upcoming budget.
TRINA HARRISON: WALKER'S CONSTITUENTS HOLD HIM ACCOUNTABLE: Sixth Congressional District constituents delivered sharp criticism to Rep. Mark Walker’s staff regarding his telephone “town halls” last week. Not all constituents in the district received the invitation to participate, and data and transcripts of the calls are not available. The representative has used this method before and it does not reflect a genuine effort to listen to constituent concerns. Walker and the administration are accountable for increased premiums and the withdrawal of insurers as a result of marketplace insecurity directly related to reduced enrollment due to ending enrollment assistance and to shortened enrollment periods, threats to cost-sharing reduction payments, and the use of the ACA’s own budget to create a media campaign against itself. Constituents from Burlington, Graham, Mebane and Pittsboro were represented. Indivisible NC6 intends to continue its Tuesdays-at-ten gatherings at Walker’s Graham office.
RON DRIVER: DON'T EXPECT CHANGE IN THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEBATE: Having lived in the area for over 60 years I have watched as the debate over affordable housing has transformed, or not, through the years. It was an issue raised back in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, etc., and it gets the same response each time. Appoint a commission to study it or hire a consultant, after which we get a report and then on to something else. All while the number of affordable housing units shrinks even more. There is no incentive to develop affordable housing in such a market as this. The best way to have affordable housing is to keep what you have, and we can see that has never worked either. It is a political football in Raleigh that simply pushes the affordable housing to surrounding areas and towns that don’t have the forces against them. This in turn creates more pressure to pay employees more within the city simply out of the need for commuting cost increases. As the city center fills, affordable housing will disappear as internal cost increases. It is the same cycle today as it was in the ’70s. Don’t expect it to change.