Saturday News: Solidarity

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NC SENATE SCHEDULES VETO OVERRIDE VOTE FOR MONDAY: On Friday, the General Assembly announced that “pursuant to Senate rule 59.2(b), notice has been given by the Chair of the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate to the Senate Minority Leader that HB 966, 2019 Appropriations Act, may be considered by the Senate on Monday, October 28, 2019.” The Senate convenes at 4 p.m. Monday, but the voting session will not be held until 7 p.m., according to a news release from the office of Senate leader Phil Berger. Both chambers are majority Republican, but a supermajority is needed to override the governor’s veto. Unlike the seven Democratic votes that would have been needed to override a veto in the House if everyone was present, only one Democrat is needed to vote with all the Senate Republicans for the needed three-fifths supermajority. Four Democrats voted for the budget — Sens. Floyd McKissick Jr., Don Davis, Ben Clark and Toby Fitch. Earlier this week McKissick told The News & Observer that he would vote to sustain the governor’s veto of the budget.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article236649673.html

NC GOP's tax cut scam costs state retirees dearly

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And before you say "cognitive dissonance," they know exactly what they're doing:

Just minutes after approving two tax cut bills that will cost the state more than $150 million in the next fiscal year, Senate lawmakers argued the state can't afford to give its retirees a permanent cost-of-living increase.

State retirees haven’t had a substantial cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, since before the recession, and House Bill 231 wouldn't change that. Instead, it’s a one-time bonus of 0.5 percent this fall and again in 2020. About 216,000 retired workers are in the state's defined retirement system. Their average pension is only about $21,000, so the bonus works out to about $105 each year. The cost of the bonus is about $25.5 million per year.

Both of those numbers are averaged, which means a whole bunch of people make less, and their bonus will also be less. And just so we're clear about the time frame, "before the recession" means 12 years ago. Just looking at inflation alone, what cost $1.00 in 2009 costs $1.20 in 2019. A 20% increase in costs to retirees that Republicans have ignored, while passing multiple tax cuts. They say those tax cuts will (and have) increased revenues, and yet here we are 12 years later with no COLAs for these folks who served our state dutifully. The word "shameful" doesn't cover it.

Friday News: Choose wisely...

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ONE OF THESE THREE REDISTRICTING BILLS IS A DOG: HB 140 would require a constitutional amendment that would be on the 2020 primary ballot for voters. North Carolina’s primary is March 3. However, HB 69 and HB 648 would be a statute, which means a future General Assembly could change it. If it’s in the state constitution, only the voters can change it. HB 69 would have an 11-person nonpartisan redistricting commission; HB 140 would have a five-person temporary redistricting advisory commission; and HB 648 would have a 16-person independent redistricting commission of 11 voting members and five alternates who do not vote. For drawing the redistricting plans, HB 69 calls for the commission to draw them, while HB 140 would have the legislative service office draw them and HB 648 would be drawn by a special group selected by its commission. Plans would have to be approved by the commissions created under HB 69 and HB 648, but not HB 140, since that one is a constitutional amendment.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article236598383.html

Petty Tyrants: Tim Moore and the $775,000 per year desk job

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The trick is to hire the people who will hire you:

Reginald “Reggie” Holley, the Republican lobbyist whose nomination was ultimately approved by the House, was asked by Moore to put his name forward and serve on the board, Jackson said — a fact Jackson said he learned from a conversation with Holley.

“How does a lobbyist — someone who depends on leadership for the movement of bills and policy — how do they say no when the Speaker of the House calls them and asks them to serve?” Jackson said. And how does the speaker, who has been rumored for months to be interested in the presidency of the 17-campus UNC system, not recuse himself from choosing the members of the Board of Governors who will ultimately make that decision? Jackson continued.

In a word--Hubris. We're talking about a man who made a joke about taking away powers from the Governor of NC. The term "ethics" is not in his vocabulary, making him the very last person who should be running the UNC System. Unfortunately, these people just don't think along the same lines as the rest of us:

Thursday News: Here we go again...

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REPUBLICANS PASS BILL TO CUT CORPORATE FRANCHISE TAX: The North Carolina Senate voted Wednesday to reduce the franchise tax, a step toward eliminating it entirely. The franchise tax is levied on corporations that do business in North Carolina. Republicans in the General Assembly want to eliminate the franchise tax, which they describe as a double property tax on businesses in North Carolina. While Republicans touted their latest tax cut as being good for business and jobs, Democrats worried about the loss of tax revenue, which would be about $1 billion over five years. The Republican-written state budget that was vetoed by the governor included reducing the franchise tax, but progress on the budget is stalled four months into the new fiscal year. However, some of the tax cuts in the vetoed spending plan are moving through the legislature as “mini budgets,” including the franchise tax reduction.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article236540213.html

Coal Ash Wednesday: Lead isotope can trace origins of coal ash

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Duke Energy's "naturally occurring" argument just went lame:

Tests show that the tracer can distinguish between the chemical signature of lead that comes from coal ash and lead that comes from other major human or natural sources, including legacy contamination from leaded gasoline and lead paint. "Lead adds to our forensic toolbox and gives us a powerful new method for tracking fly ash contamination in the environment," said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

The tracer broadens scientists' ability to assess and monitor exposure risks of people who live or work near coal ash ponds and landfills or near sites where coal ash is being spread on soil as fill or reused for other purposes.

As I mentioned above, Duke Energy has played the "naturally occurring" card numerous times when individual toxic elements are discovered, and fossil fuel-friendly lawmakers have parroted those talking points ad nauseum during hearings and debates. I have often been frustrated with government regulators (state and federal) for not upping their scientific game to pierce that ambiguity. But in reality, they are simply not funded well enough to accomplish the R&D work and the regulatory work. Especially since the GOP took over the NC General Assembly and cut DENR's/DEQ's budget by over 40%. That research shortfall was not a coincidence, it was by design. Once again, we are blessed to have Avner and the Nicholas School working toward solutions:

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