Wake Dems Weekly Update: Voter ID returns

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 14

July 16, 2017
 

Summer used to be a quieter time in the political calendar. You could relax on the beach and read a novel filled with intrigue and nefarious characters. These days, you only have to look to the Republican-led General Assembly for real-life versions of these stories.

Despite the NCGA being out of session, Republicans are still meeting behind closed doors to plot their schemes for this fall’s sessions.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Remember that voter ID bill that was struck down by the courts? We haven’t seen the end of it. Republicans have been working for months to revive some form of voter ID, and they’re now floating the idea of putting it on the ballotas a state constitutional amendment in 2018. They’re hoping to motivate their supporters to turn out in a midterm election that is otherwise trending against them, by tapping into Trumpian fears of “illegals” voting. They also hope a popular referendum will make the law harder to challenge in the courts. We will likely see a bill during the September session.

Looking into a bleak future

We knew Republicans have been taking us down a dangerous fiscal path. Gov. Cooper warned that this year’s budget “may be the most fiscally irresponsible budget I've ever seen.” But this week we learned the extent of that irresponsibility. At the request of our Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, nonpartisan legislative staff produced a report on the budget outlook for the next five years. What came back was shocking: projected annual budget deficits of at least $1 billion starting in 2019, thanks to the massive tax giveaways for the wealthy and corporations Republicans have been passing for the last four years. That means that in order to balance the budget, as required by law, legislators will have to find $1 billion each year in either cuts or middle-class tax hikes. This is the end game of the Republican playbook.

The report’s assumptions are based purely on inflation and continuing the spending levels of this year’s budget, which are meager enough. Staff did not project any further investments in education or our people’s other core needs.So the deficits will in reality be even larger. It looks like NC is quickly headed over the same cliff as Louisiana and Kansas, where schools and the middle class have for years paid the price for Republicans’ ill-conceived trickle-down failure.

Legislative redistricting back in federal court

Mark your calendars for July 27th. The U.S. District Court in Greensboro has ordered all parties to be in court to present their arguments and witnesses in relation to legislative redistricting. After the hearing, the court will determine the timing for redrawing, including a possible special election. We will be watching, and will provide more information in a future update.

Municipal Elections Update

Filing for this fall’s municipal elections opened last Friday, July 7th, and runs until next Friday, July 21st, at noon. We will have further updates after filing closes, but if you or someone you know is interested in running, particularly in the non-Raleigh municipalities, just reply to this email.

Wake Dems Weekly Update: The hits keep comin'

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 13

July 8, 2017
 

Things are quiet on Jones Street, but the ramifications of session continue to be felt a week after adjournment.

The latest news dropped Thursday: buried in the budget was a zeroing-out of funding for a previously planned Freedom Monument for the Capitol grounds recognizing the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina. At the same time, legislators boosted funding for a Fayetteville Civil War museum by $5 million. Has there ever been a more fitting metaphor for the priorities and racial views of the NCGOP?

#FREETHEMIMOSA

There was at least one bit of positive news resulting from a bill passed last week: on Wednesday, Raleigh became the second Triangle municipality to take up the opportunity allowed by the “Brunch Bill,” passing an ordinance to permit alcohol sales starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays, effective immediately. Given the news coming from both Washington and Raleigh lately, this couldn’t come at a better time.

A few other bits of good news from last week:

  • In a rare defeat for a bill on the floor, the House blocked a measure (House Bill 581) that would have taken control over billboard zoning from cities and counties, and allowed billboard companies to essentially place billboards anywhere and make them look however they want. The bill had come to the floor twice previously, also a rare occurrence, and both times been sent back to committee for further tweaking. After weeks of trying, powerful bill sponsor David Lewis (R-Harnett) must have realized he just wasn’t going to get the votes, no matter how much he changed the bill.

  • Somehow nearly every House member agreed to establish the state’s first independent redistricting panel. It happened on an amendment to a bill forcing Asheville City Council to redraw its districts. Rep. Brian Turner (D-Asheville) offered the amendment so that council members themselves would not be allowed to draw their own districts. When Republicans realized the precedent they had set, they rolled it back the next day. But Democrats won’t forget the concept Republicans agreed to before their partisan blinders kicked in.

EARTH, WIND & GARBAGE JUICE

This session, the Senate was worse than any villain in the old Captain Planetcartoon.

  • They took one bill (House Bill 374) that the House passed unanimously, and added an amendment to loosen coal ash regulations. When that version went back to the House for concurrence, it sat on the calendar all day on the final day of session, until it was referred back to the Rules Committee late that night. It could come up again next spring or potentially even sooner.

  • The Senate loaded another widely supported bill (House Bill 56) with a repeal of the Outer Banks plastic bag ban. The House voted overwhelmingly to not concur, sending the bill to conference to work out the differences.

  • The Senate could get its way on that one, as it largely did on a painstakingly negotiated solar energy bill. For about two years, lawmakers brought Duke Energy and other power companies together with renewable energy groups and other stakeholders to work out a deal to boost the availability and affordability of solar. House Bill 589passed the House nearly unanimously before Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown decided to kill the bill by adding a three-year wind energy moratorium onto it. Brown has claimed for years that wind turbines threaten military jets, contrary to the military’s own assessments. When the moratorium-laden version returned to the House, the House voted to not concur, sending it to conference. Instead of three years, an 18-month moratorium remained in the final negotiated bill, which passed just before session adjourned. Most Democrats voted against it, including every one from Wake. If Gov. Cooper vetoes the bill, the House may have the votes to sustain his veto, as it passed only 66-41 in that chamber, fewer than the 72 votes needed if all members are present. Since the bill passed, two companies who have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop in-progress coastal wind projects have threatened to pull out of the state completely, jeopardizing hundred of jobs and millions of dollars of business and tax revenue.

Both chambers were responsible for passing House Bill 576, the “garbage juice” bill which would allow landfills to dispose of their liquid runoff (“leachate”) by spraying it into the air with an aerosolizer that one Democratic senator likened to a snowblower. Gov. Cooper vetoed the bill last Friday, but unless at least four Democrats who voted in favor can be persuaded to back the governor, the veto will likely be overridden.

Wake Dems Weekly Update: A break from the madness

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 12

July 1, 2017
 

We hope you and your family have a restful weekend as we celebrate our nation’s independence!

We told you all about the Republican budget the last few weeks. As expected,Gov. Cooper vetoed it Monday, and also as expected, the General Assembly quickly overrode his veto, so the budget is now law. Luckily, nearly every Democrat who initially voted for the budget came around to sustain the governor’s veto. But that wasn’t enough against a united GOP supermajority which Democrats are still just short of piercing. November 2018 can’t get here soon enough.

Legislators adjourned in the wee hours of Friday morning (the Senate at 1:31 AM, and the House at 2:09). But they will be returning on August 3rd and again on September 6th to deal with redistricting, any vetoes from the governor, conference reports on bills the House and Senate couldn’t agree on before adjournment, constitutional amendments, and a few other matters.

Technically, when legislators come back to Raleigh, they will still be in this year’s regular “long” session. But unlike the last six months, the bills they can consider are limited by the adjournment resolution passed Friday morning. Despite those limits, we could be in for another doozy. Not only will legislative lines be redrawn (depending on timing and criteria set by the federal courts), but legislators specified that they will also redraw judicial and prosecutorial districts, and could gerrymander cities and counties as well.

But the top story this week will evidently remain one of the top stories for months—Republicans’ out-of-the-blue attempt to impeach our Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, the first time the state will have considered impeachment since 1870. So Republicans are working their way down the Democratic Council of State roster, after repeatedly targeting the governor, Attorney General, and even the former Secretary of Public Instruction who is no longer even in office.

On Thursday, it appeared Speaker Moore had brushed impeachment off the table, but the adjournment resolution specifically allows it to be considered when business resumes in August. It looks like legislators will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate claims without legal merit, just to score political points. So petty and baseless are the charges that in March, when Marshall’s staff delivered requested notary documents to impeachment ringleader Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender), Marshall’s 2016 opponent was in Millis’ office, ready to receive the documents, according to testimony that staffer gave in the House Rules Committee this week. That opponent also appeared with Millis at a press conference laying the groundwork for the impeachment fiasco. Yet Millis claims this isn’t political.

Speaking of Millis, while all this was going down, the NC Conservative PAC he runs started tweeting homophobic attacks on Democratic legislators and even a Republican Senate staffer. Milis claims no knowledge of the since deleted tweets, that a nameless “volunteer” was responsible.

And that’s just the beginning of this long, crazy week. Next time, we will have more on these topics and other bills that were rushed through the General Assembly while many of us were sleeping.