Treasurer Dale Folwell giddy over ALEC endorsement

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Birds of a feather screw over state employees together:

A recent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) report named North Carolina’s retirement plans among the top four state-administered public pension plans for the year in terms of transparency. ALEC recognized the state, along with Kentucky, Nebraska and Montana, for transparency in the administration and reporting on the ongoing status of the North Carolina Total Retirement Plans. The report, Unaffordable and Unaccountable 2017, highlights the importance of transparency in public pension plans, noting that transparency in financial reporting enables the public to access the information needed to make informed decisions.

Of the report State Treasurer Dale Folwell said, “I’m proud of the work our team is doing to ensure the health and integrity of the funds we’re responsible for managing. Part of that good work is being open and transparent about what we’re doing to keep the pension promise made by our state to the public servants in North Carolina.”

Bolding mine, because that's all you really need to know about ALEC's motivations when it comes to public pensions. Their overriding goal in this area is to make a massive shift in the way state employee retirement plans are funded, and that shift (of course) means forcing those employees to pay for their own pensions like private-sector workers do in most cases:

Monday News: Fire and Fury

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TRUMP AND HIS SUPPORTERS ENRAGED OVER NEW TELL-ALL BOOK: Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" portrays the 45th president as a leader who doesn't understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides. That picture, said Miller, "is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him." Miller also criticized Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who is quoted at length by Wolff, saying it was "tragic and unfortunate" that Bannon "would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive." Bannon's description of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic" particularly infuriated Trump, who released a seething statement accusing Bannon of having "lost his mind."
http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/celebrities/article193486809.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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BURR'S COMMITTEE NEEDS TO ADDRESS RUSSIA'S MEDDLING IN U.S. POLITICS: North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr leads the Senate Intelligence Committee and its investigation into what role, if any, international meddling may have played in the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign. He’s acknowledged that President Trump has strongly urged him to wrap up the committee’s probe. Additionally, Burr recently told reporters he wanted to wrap up the investigation early this year – and hasn’t decided what the committee would do – put together a report or simply make public much of the information the committee gathered. “The important aspect is: Can we lay the facts down so the American people can come to their own conclusion?” Burr said. Questions about whether Trump or his campaign knew of the Russian efforts in 2016 or even more so, if they aided in them, should be thoroughly examined. But those matters are separate from the more basic concern. Questions of international interference in our electoral process are serious. They are not partisan and should not be dismissed as the 2018 elections open.
http://www.wral.com/editorial-burr-s-committee-needs-to-address-russia-s-meddling-in-u-s-politics/17...

Wilmington Mayor concerned about GenX, not sure water is safe to drink

Caught between a rock and a hard place:

“People ask me constantly, ‘Is the water safe to drink?’” former Wilmington Mayor Harper Peterson told lawmakers during a hearing on water pollution. “And I can’t answer that. I take a precautionary approach, and I think we all should. I think we shouldn’t be drinking the water.”

Wilmington is downstream of the Fayetteville Works plant run by Chemours (formerly by DuPont), which has for years been discharging a chemical called GenX into the Cape Fear River that serves as the main source of drinking water for southeastern North Carolina. Chemours and DuPont split a $670 million settlement earlier this year over health complaints from people exposed to a chemical similar in makeup to GenX, called C8. The companies have said GenX is safer; no public studies have so far linked it to serious health risks in humans, although it is largely untested aside from some experiments on lab animals that have linked it to health problems.

I can't imagine the pressure he's under. There's over 117,000 people relying on that water, and that's just those inside the City limits. The number's probably considerably higher. It takes a cast-iron set to make the statement he did, and of course some people are not happy with him saying it:

Saturday News: Stop the K-3 meltdown

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ROY COOPER CALLS ON GOP LEADERS TO FUND CLASS SIZE MANDATE: Gov. Roy Cooper is urging Republican legislators to act next week to help school districts deal with smaller state-mandated K-3 class sizes, but a key lawmaker says a deal is not imminent. School leaders across North Carolina are warning about a wide range of negative consequences for teachers and students if they’re still required to sharply reduce K-3 class sizes starting in July. During a visit Friday at Cotswold Elementary School in Charlotte, Cooper said GOP lawmakers need to provide funding for smaller classes or phase in the changes when they return to Raleigh on Wednesday for a special session. “I believe smaller class size can be a good thing, but you have to pay for it,” said Cooper, a Democrat. “This is an artificial class size change – one that shrinks classes on paper but in reality hurts students and teachers.”
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article193246149.html

Trump gives thumbs-up to massive offshore drilling plan

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Will this battle never come to an end?

The Trump administration on Thursday moved to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans with a plan that would open up federal waters off California for the first time in more than three decades. The new five-year drilling plan also could open new areas of oil and gas exploration in areas off the East Coast from Georgia to Maine, where drilling has been blocked for decades. Many lawmakers in those states support offshore drilling, though the Democratic governors of North Carolina and Virginia oppose drilling off their coasts.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, also opposes offshore drilling near his state, as do the three Democratic governors on the West Coast. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the plan Thursday, saying that responsible development of offshore energy resources would boost jobs and economic security while providing billions of dollars to fund conservation along U.S. coastlines.

Bolding mine, because that's some serious BS. The Gulf of Mexico has been literally peppered with offshore rigs for decades, but when the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened, there wasn't enough money available to buy a pack of Nabs for those affected, much less "conserve" the oil-drenched coastline and fishing areas. The only bright spot in this oily mess is the fact we have a new Governor. Pat McCrory was nothing more than an industry shill, actually allowing them to operate out of his office under the guise of the Outer Continental Shelf Governor's Coalition. But our new Governor Roy Cooper is a totally different animal:

Friday News: Gerrymandering on trial

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COURT PONDERS LEGISLATIVE MAPS CREATED BY SPECIAL MASTER: North Carolina legislative districts drawn up by Republicans are back in court as federal judges decide whether to accept proposed boundary changes from the third-party expert they appointed. The three-judge panel scheduled a hearing Friday in Greensboro to listen to why a Stanford University law professor they hired as a special master redrew boundaries the way he did. The judges also said it appeared a handful of districts in and around Raleigh and Charlotte were needlessly altered from their initial shapes — possibly violating the state constitution — when the GOP first approved maps for this decade in 2011. The original maps helped Republicans retain and expand their majorities, making it easier for them to enact their conservative agenda on taxes, education and social issues.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article193109004.html

Excerpts from Democracy NC's 2016 Election report

Hat-tip to NC Policy Watch for bringing this to our attention:

Hurricane Matthew, hit the eastern part of the state on October 8 and 9 – just a few days before the regular voter registration deadline of October 14. Hurricane Matthew caused over a billion dollars of damage and led to devastating flooding across eastern and coastal North Carolina – an area of the state with large numbers of African-American and low-income voters. By order of a Wake County Superior Court judge, the voter registration deadline was extended by five days to October 19 in the 36 counties that had sustained enough damage to qualify for federal emergency assistance. The SBOE also sent a postcard to over 22,000 voters in the area who had requested mail-in absentee ballots, in hopes of rectifying cases where voters had not received their ballots or had lost them in the flooding, and coordinated with shelters and the postal service to pick up ballots from voters in time.

While the extension and other outreach efforts by the SBOE were helpful, the severe disruption caused by Hurricane Matthew was difficult to mitigate. Many eastern North Carolina voters remained displaced well through Election Day, and a handful of early voting locations and polling places across the impacted region had to be changed as a result of flooding and hurricane damage.

Some of those areas still haven't recovered, some 15 months later. Among many other problems, the effect on voter turnout was devastating. And so was the unnecessary confusion over out-of-precinct voting:

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