Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


KEEP LEGISLATIVE ANTICS OUT OF ABORTION BILL VOTE: Legislative antics are always present in some capacity, but this round is downright cruel. Remember, the legislators in Raleigh work part-time. They have jobs separate from legislating, don’t make much money from it and have to commute from all over the state. They also have personal lives and families. One such legislator is Sydney Batch, who represents District 37 in Wake County. During her campaign last year, she was diagnosed with cancer. Despite that, she stayed in the race and defeated an incumbent in a district difficult for Democrats to win. Batch is recovering from surgery for her cancer, but still made it to vote. Then Moore rescheduled it. Another representative left her husband, who is currently in the hospital, to appear for the same vote. Moore rescheduled it. How long can this go on? To bring legislators dealing with real, personal issues back and forth on a vote that may never occur is cruel and serves no purpose for North Carolinians.

DEBUNKING THE "AVERAGE TEACHER PAY" MYTH: he reported average teacher pay figure has bothered me for some time. We talk to teachers all across the state every week and they are constantly scratching their heads, looking at their own paychecks and wondering who is actually taking home this “average” salary. The truth is, most teachers aren’t. Our analysis -- "North Carolina’s Average Teacher Pay Myth" -- finds that average teacher salaries in more than 80 percent of North Carolina’s school districts fall below the reported statewide average teacher salary of $53,975. And worse, the lowest paid teachers tend to be in our more rural and poorer counties. Why is this the case? We find that the state’s reported “average” teacher salary figure calculated by the state Department of Public Instruction is clearly inflated by including funding streams that most teachers don’t get and excluding lower-paid teachers that are not state funded. And the figure also includes an average of the supplemental pay provided to teachers by local governments and districts that have the wealth to do so.

THE BUSINESS CASE FOR EXPANDING MEDICAID: Here is a look at some of the ways expansion could benefit NC businesses and the economy: Gain Jobs: North Carolina could add as many as 40,000 jobs from Medicaid expansion. Two states offer a good prediction of our state’s success: Michigan and Ohio each expanded Medicaid in 2014. With similar populations and numbers of Medicaid expansion enrollees, they both saw significant employment gains. Michigan gained 30,000 new jobs (with 85% of those jobs in the private sector), and Ohio gained 54,000 jobs. Lower Healthcare Costs: About 18% of NC residents are uninsured. Uncompensated care provided at hospitals across the state raises health care costs for all. With Medicaid expansion, we can reduce this burden, while benefiting consumers who buy their insurance through the ACA marketplace. A study of expansion and non-expansion states found about a 7% reduction in private insurance premiums in those states that expanded Medicaid. Boost Consumer Spending: Montana, a state with a tenth of North Carolina’s population, had $400 million injected into their economy after enacting its Medicaid expansion in 2016. With money freed up from healthcare spending, consumers have money to pay for other goods and services.

TRUMP'S TARIFFS YIELD A TRUTH DEFICIT: Want to understand how the tariffs on China work? Don’t take President Donald Trump’s word for it. “Talks with China continue in a very congenial manner - there is absolutely no need to rush - as Tariffs are NOW being paid to the United States by China of 25% on 250 Billion Dollars worth of goods & products. These massive payments go directly to the Treasury of the U.S. ...” -- May 10, 2019, 7:43 a.m. The president is wrong. He can’t bring himself to tell the truth. He demeans himself, his party and the nation. China does not pay a penny in tariffs. Tariffs are paid by companies in the United States that import goods and products FROM China. Those importers pass those costs, in the form of higher prices for goods and products, to the American businesses and consumers that buy them. North Carolina’s economy is paying a high price for his impetuous trade war and even stalwarts like the state Farm Bureau don’t believe Trump’s phony short-term pain for long-term gain justifications.

THE DOCTORS AND CLINIC WORKERS WHO PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE: On that day in 2009, Mr. Roeder carried out the mission he’d been planning: He walked up to Dr. Tiller as he was handing out programs and greeting fellow parishioners in the church foyer. Knowing that Dr. Tiller customarily wore body armor, Mr. Roeder put a .22-caliber handgun to the doctor’s head and pulled the trigger. In the decade since Dr. Tiller’s assassination, the violence and harassment inflicted on those who work in abortion clinics have become only more routine. A Molotov cocktail thrown through the window of a Planned Parenthood building, a clinic escort hit by an anti-abortion activist’s car — both episodes that happened in the past several months — barely garner headlines. While most people who protest abortion reject violence, among their ranks are zealots who believe that the perceived killing of embryos and fetuses justifies murder. And abortion providers worry about even one of those zealots being emboldened by a political environment that’s spawned extreme anti-abortion legislation around the country this year.


WAYNE GOODWIN: FOR NC DEMS, IT'S ABOUT VALUES: A recent column (May 17) cites opposition to an anti-choice bill to claim that N.C. Democrats are “rejecting moderates,” yet ignores the party’s priorities, recent accomplishments, and the attacks on reproductive rights happening across the South. Last year on our Rural NC Listening Tour I visited over 40 rural counties to hear from rural voters. Overwhelmingly, people were concerned with kitchen table issues like affordable healthcare, quality public education, clean water, jobs/the economy, and access to the ballot box. N.C. Democrats have always been committed to these issues that unite us. That’s why we recruited candidates to run in every legislative district in 2018. The results speak for themselves: We flipped 11 districts that President Trump won and broke the Republican supermajority by running quality candidates, including moderates, who fit their districts. Opposing a bill that’s part of a larger nationwide attack on reproductive rights isn’t about “purity,” it’s about values. Standing up for reproductive justice is something to be proud of – just like our big tent party, the party that truly reflects Tar Heel diversity.

SARAH PRESTON: DON DAVIS IS NO MODERATE: Regarding Colin Campbell’s “NC Democrats are rejecting moderates,” (May 17): Calling Sen. Don Davis a moderate is about as accurate as calling a bill that accuses doctors and mothers of taking action to cause the death of newborn babies “inconsequential.” There is nothing “inconsequential” about passage of an extreme bill that undermines bodily autonomy for people with wombs and suggests that we are not capable of making good, sound medical decisions about our own bodies. This bill originated with extremists who want to end abortion, and the myths it propagates are being highlighted by Donald Trump – by no means a moderate. As a nonpartisan organization that promotes women in leadership who are champions of reproductive freedom, Lillian’s List is neither an arm of the Democratic Party, nor are we interested in “purity tests.” All we seek is elected officials who will trust women. Regardless of whether they are from Greene, Pitt, or any other part of the state, elected officials ought to stand for reproductive freedom and gender equity. Don Davis clearly does neither and he deserves to be challenged by someone who will. Sarah Preston is Executive director, Lillian’s List Action Fund

DR. ELIZABETH DAVIS SNOW: ON ABORTION, LET WOMEN DECIDE: Historic legal battles in the last 100 years were fought and won in the advancement of women’s rights. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, sexual harassment laws, divorce and child support laws, and even voting rights are among the changes in civil law that legally protected women from discriminatory attitudes. Women possess the wisdom to make choices. Who to consult in making these choices is also a woman’s right and prerogative. Pro-choice is just that – that a woman is trusted to make the right decisions for herself based on her beliefs and values regarding all aspects of her life. I certainly hope our General Assembly will trust women to make their own decisions regarding the legal preservation of reproductive rights.



From the dark side

This week's loser is our old friend Don van der Vaart, who is now a shill for the John Locke Foundation:

Costly new groundwater monitoring requirements. Troubling new exposure to lawsuits. Additional layers of record keeping. They’re the new triple threat to North Carolina farmers who raise hogs, turkeys, and cattle — courtesy of state regulators’ latest update to the general permit required of animal feed operators.

Even with the big farms that have the resources to monitor water and keep records, their history of doing so is checkered, at best. That's what led an inspector to falsify dozens of inspection reports, and what has made it damn near impossible to track down point sources of contamination. As to the lawsuits, these rule changes should actually reduce the frequency of them, not increase.

Despite the direct impact the new requirements impose on thousands of farmers, they were shut out of the process, specifically excluded from meetings between the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and special-interest groups, including the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and others.

It doesn't surprise me that van der Vaart would lie about this, because a) He's an incompetent fool, and b) He's lied so many times before. The truth is, like *all* proposed rule changes, public meetings were held and comments were addressed professionally:

In November 2018, DEQ held a stakeholder session and public meeting prior to drafting proposed changes to the general permit. That feedback was a part of the January draft permit that invited comment to the agency through mail, email and two public meetings. To read a summary of comments, as well as agency responses. Note: The link above takes you to the meeting notes, not the press release.

360 people attended the two public meetings, and 6,640 public comments were received by DEQ via e-mail. The only thing happening "behind closed doors" is van der Vaart huffing spray paint.

DEQ should have followed past history for renewing these permits — science-based environmental management that dates back 30 years in our state. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the DEQ under Gov. Mike Easley established odor regulations that provided DEQ with the authority to stop nuisance odors. Then in 2007, some of the same special-interest environmental groups that are involved in the latest dispute filed a petition for rule-making with North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission (EMC), claiming hog farms were adversely impacting the water quality of the state’s rivers and streams.

The EMC, which was appointed by a Democrat-controlled General Assembly and a Democrat governor, ultimately declined to promulgate rules but, instead, wisely commissioned a comprehensive scientific study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to look at the impact of agricultural feed operations, including swine operations, on the water quality of our rivers and streams. The Raleigh News & Observer reported that the study showed some water quality indicators measured by USGS were elevated near the farms, but concentrations were “still much lower than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state consider dangerous to human health.”

And this exposes van der Vaart's complete lack of comprehension when it comes to water quality. A severe nutrient upload may not be "dangerous to human health" via direct exposure, but it most definitely is detrimental to the ecosystem's health. Those nutrients are like steroids to microorganisms that deplete oxygen, killing off countless fish and other river critters. And speaking of the USGS, here's a more recent study which provided DEQ with a lot of that science Don says wasn't used:

At the majority of individual SW and SP watersheds, measurable CAFO effects on water quality were clearly distinguished. At other sites, effects were less evident. Elevated concentrations of nitrate+nitrite did not necessarily indicate a CAFO effect; conversely, low nitrate+nitrite concentrations did not necessarily indicate the absence of a CAFO effect. An integrated evaluation of nitrate+nitrite concentrations, sodium+potassium concentrations, and stable isotopes (δ15N and δ18O) of nitrate+nitrite was used to differentiate which SW and SP sites did or did not have a CAFO waste-manure signature.

Streams with CAFO manure effects typically had higher sodium+potassium concentrations (commonly between 11 and 33 mg/L) and δ15N values of nitrate+nitrite (commonly between 11 and 26 ‰) relative to streams reflecting background agri-cultural conditions, which commonly had sodium+potassium concentrations between 6 and 14 mg/L and δ15N values of nitrate+nitrite between 6 and 15 ‰.

I'll leave it at that for today, but suffice it to say that Donald van der Vaart has not changed in any appreciable manner since McCrory mistakenly put him in charge of NC DEQ. He's still a lot more concerned about commerce than protecting the environment, and any column space granted him by newspapers is wasted.