Original Commentary

Original Commentary

Fitzsimon File Top Story

A new low in the dismantling of democracy

The folks running the General Assembly reached a new low this week in their efforts to dismantle our democracy----and that is no small feat given their actions in the last few years. Senate Rules Chair Bill Rabon filed legislation calling for a constitutional amendment to shorten the terms of all judges in the state to two years and end every current judge’s term at the end of 2018. They would all have to run for reelection this fall and every two years after that. That would literally turn judges into partisan politicians spending as much time much raising money and campaigning as they do hearing cases. There are currently 403 judges serving, when you add up district court, superior court, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

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Progressive Voices Top Story

Tillis among senators to vote on “repugnant” Trump judicial nominee today

National civil rights leaders call for the rejection of North Carolina’s Thomas Farr [Editor’s note: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee (which includes North Carolina’s Thom Tillis) meets today at 10:00 a.m. to consider a bevy of President Trump’s nominees to serve as federal judges and U.S. Attorneys. Each of the judicial nominees is being considered for a lifetime appointment. As was highlighted in a July issue of the NC Policy Watch “Weekly Briefing,” none of the nominees on this list has received more negative national attention than Thomas Farr, who was nominated to fill a long-vacant slot on the U.S. District Court for the North Carolina’s Eastern District.

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Progressive Voices Top Story

As Congress slashes the federal budget by $5 trillion, North Carolina stands to lose big

Budgets matter, both within government and inside each household across America, because they demonstrate just how much we value our priorities and are willing to contribute to achieving them.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

Our rogue General Assembly returns to Raleigh for yet another rump session

Why the legislature now operates this way and why it’s a big problem The North Carolina General Assembly (or, at least, a goodly portion of it) returned to town last night. Nearly four months after having passed a new state budget—the event that used to signal the conclusion of an annual legislative session—lawmakers are back yet again. The top agenda item this time for our “part-time” lawmakers: to override Governor Cooper’s veto of a bill to alter state elections passed during their last cameo appearance in the state capital. At least, that’s what we think the plan is.

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Progressive Voices Top Story

Las Vegas aftermath: Responding to the gun lobby’s assault on freedom and liberty

There are lots of reasons for people to get off of the sidelines and commit themselves to new and sustained action and activism in the aftermath of the gun violence horror in Las Vegas.

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Fitzsimon File Top Story

Monday numbers

4---number of days since The Trump administration announced its decision to halt cost-sharing subsidies that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage under the Affordable Care Act (“White House’s decision to stop ACA cost-sharing subsidies triggers strong opposition, Washington Post, October 13, 2017)

25---percentage increase projected by the Congressional Budget Office...

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Fitzsimon File Top Story

Lawmakers want increased competition in elections, except their own

Hypocrisy in politics is hardly a new phenomenon but rarely is it as boldly on display as it was last week from Republican legislative leaders during the latest of the now monthly special sessions of the General Assembly.

The House and Senate passed legislation called the “Electoral Freedom Act,” first introduced by Senator Andrew Brock in this year’s regular legislative session that sought to make it easier for unaffiliated candidates and new political parties to appear on the general election ballot.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

North Carolina’s greatest scandal continues

UNC center’s latest report on poverty provides powerful reminder of the communities and individuals being left behind When you consider the matter for a moment, it’s really not all that surprising that conservative politicians in Raleigh have been so hell-bent for so long to silence Professor Gene Nichol and the colleagues and students with whom he works at UNC Law School. There are, of course, numerous critics of the reactionary policies that state leaders have been advancing for most of the past decade—many of them employed in state-funded universities—but when it comes to Nichol and his team, there are a couple of factors that have to drive the powers-that-be absolutely crazy.

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Progressive Voices Top Story

New report highlights General Assembly’s failed record on higher education

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), a nonpartisan organization that provides independent data and policy recommendations to its 16 member states in the southeast, has published new state-specific data on college affordability that paint a damning picture of the General Assembly’s record. The report shows that both cost of attendance and student loan debt have risen dramatically from 2008 to 2014. These increases disproportionately create barriers to economic advancement for students of color and students from low-income families.

North Carolina’s constitution places a very important responsibility on the General Assembly. State leaders are required to provide higher education for free “as far as practicable.” Article IX, Section 9 reads:

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Fitzsimon File Top Story

Monday numbers

4.4---percentage of the world’s population that lives in the United States (“Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and chart, Vox, October 2, 2017)

42---percentage of the civilian-owned guns in the world in the United States (Ibid)

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Fitzsimon File Top Story

The Follies (of the latest absurd special session)

Wednesday evening as a House committee met on the first day of yet another special session to consider a so-called budget technical corrections bill filled with policy and funding provisions that very few people had seen, House Budget Chair Nelson Dollar told Rep. David Lewis to present the bill to the committee “if you're finished being apprised of what's in the bill.”

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Fitzsimon File Top Story

Drinking water safety at stake in the latest absurd special session

Here we go again. Another special session of the General Assembly begins Wednesday at noon and no one other than a handful of legislative leaders is exactly sure what lawmakers will be discussing. That’s the way the legislature ...
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Top Story Weekly Briefing

The outsourcing of sacrifice

In 21st Century America, selflessness is mostly reserved for the hired help

This past weekend, a local college football game was billed as “Military Appreciation Day.” Throughout the game, retired, current and future members of the nation’s armed forces were ushered out onto the field during breaks in the play to enjoy a few moments in the spotlight and to soak in the applause of the thousands gathered. Time and again, the stadium crowd was exhorted to rise and express its collective thanks to the various servicemen and women for their sacrifice and dedicated efforts on behalf of the nation. Events like this have become commonplace in 21st Century America.

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Progressive Voices Top Story

Gerrymandering is only the latest attack on North Carolina’s courts

The framers of the U.S. Constitution designed a system that helps insulate federal judges from political pressure. Federal judges are appointed and can only be removed by impeachment. Congress cannot even reduce their salaries. This gives judges the freedom to protect individual rights, even when their decisions might be unpopular with voters or politicians.

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