Morning Post – Day 98 Vetoes anyone?

All eyes on Raleigh for the next couple of days as Governor Bev Perdue still has a few bills on her desk that a growing group of environmental advocates want to see vetoed.

Top of the list is H819, which includes the infamous sea-level rise provision, a complicated mess. Boiled down, it’s a slap at climate change science. I’ve covered this story for the past few months for Coastal Review Online and you can read the latest on the site this am.

Personally, I have no idea how much the sea will rise in my lifetime, but I’m pretty sure it will. I’m all for better science, but when I want to know how to do that I’d rather rely on the science community to come up with the plan.

The bill got a lot of criticism, but it wasn’t the worst part of this episode. Throughout this process some of the country’s top geologists and shoreline scientists have been treated shabbily by our elected officials, at one point even accused of bribery and making their research more controversial to get grant money. It got even worse at the end. If the bill does get vetoed, I hope it’s debated with a lot less vitriol and personal attacks. Coastal Review Online: Will She or Won’t She?

The other bills of concern are S229 and H953, which are omnibus bills with various amendments to the state’s environmental laws. These kinds of bills can be pretty technical in nature, but the changes are always there for a reason. Once you make the connections on how various revisions in how things can be monitored or how a regulation is delayed or altered, it’s usually clear that a particular industry, sometimes a specific plant or business is the beneficiary.

The bills also contain some big shifts in policy. At the request of Greensboro, the Jordan Lake rules, aimed to clean up a major water supply, are being delayed thanks to provision that got tucked into one of the bills near the end of the session. The secretive nature of the move is troublesome for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it is a significant, unvetted change in policy toward the Jordan Lake watershed and the water supply of more than a million people in the Triangle. If the delay really means delay then the damage will be limited, but if it mean the end or revision of the rules then that’s a different kettle of fish. Meanwhile, the lake is getting worse, particularly in the upper end above the NC 751 causeway.
[places soapbox back in corner]
– You can bet the lunch chatter in the tonier spots in downtown Raleigh will be the new society rankings handed down by the NC Center for Public Policy Research. To no one’s surprise, the GOP takeover altered the landscape among the lobbyists. Via the N&O New lobbyist rankings reflect GOP takeover of NC legislature
You can read the press release here. The report will cost ya ten bucks, but you get the picture.

– The big chew of the day for political types is just what the new poll in NC-7 means. Via Roll Call GOP Poll Shows Mike McIntyre With Small Lead, Well Under 50 Percent
The poll really shows how remarkable it will be if McIntyre manages to hold on to his lead.

In a sign of the hill McIntyre will have to climb to keep his seat, Mitt Romney topped Barack Obama by a whopping 17 points in the redrawn district. The president got 36 percent to Romney’s 53 percent in the poll, conducted by respected GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies.

For those of you who think Blue Dog McIntyre can’t be any worse than his GOP opponent, Johnston County state Sen. David Rouzer, please note that he’s the guy that pushed the above mentioned sea-level rise bill.

– And the Romney odyssey continues . . .
Buzzfeed has a look at the papers in Israel, especially the one owned by the guy who is determined to become the top donor in this year’s U.S. presidential contest. He was the fellow who was seated at the head of the table when Romney made his “cultural differences” speech. Adelson’s Newspaper Downplays Romney’s Visit
It looks like the Poland leg of the trip was an anomaly in that Romney failed to insult his hosts. He also heaped praise on JPII, which is a real crowd-pleaser and another indication that the trip was about Catholic and Jewish voters back home and raising money among well-to-do folks living abroad. In Warsaw speech, Romney heaps praise on John Paul II

Morning Post – 99 Days and counting

Good morning. This post starts the official ExJS 2012 Election Countdown.
The presidential election is a mere 99 days away. I suppose anyone watching the Olympics on network television in a battleground state is probably well aware that the race is on given the giant ad buys saturating the airwaves. Those of us unable to draw in the weak over-the-air signal are not as lucky. The Olympics have made it into the ExJS house by other, perfectly legal means via Roku’s Caribcast channel which offers CMV TV out of Jamaica. They seem to be showing the BBC feed or the official Olympic feed or something, plus occasional local commentary and, naturally, island wireless service commercials featuring cheery people and a nice beat.

Here are a few reads for Day 99:

– President Obama is due to accept his party’s nomination in a stadium named after a bank that’s too big to fail. The Char-O has a looksee at the relationship between BoA and the Dems and a little of the bank’s history with presidential politics. Bank of America’s support for DNC is quiet, though significant

– President McCain, his pal Lindsey Graham and Romney übersurrogate Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are coming to Fayetteville today to talk about the defense budget and stuff. McCain comes to N.C. to promote defense spending

– The NYT has a rather large story out on Bill Clinton’s upcoming staring role in Charlotte. Bill Clinton to Have Leading Role at Party’s Convention

– How about that film industry tax break? Three southeast legislators – two Reps and a Senator – are renting out places to the film industry. Yes, one of them is Susi Hamilton. Via the Star News – Third area legislator adds income from film industry

– UVa’s Cooper Center is out with a look at the demographics of Virginia, which may be instructive.
Demographic Change and Presidential Politics in Virginia

– In case you missed it, there’s a little Politico story on Zach Galifianakis, whose uncle was beaten by Jesse Helms using that lovely helmsian slogan “He’s one of us” which translates to, well, you know what it means. From the interview:

“I was a volunteer for the Michael Dukakis campaign in North Carolina. We cold called people,” he said. “I would say, ‘My name is Zach Galifianakis, I’m calling about Michael Dukakis.’”

Debt limit fight cost billions, was stupid

OK, that’s my headline and opinion. But give this a read. The GAO is out a major report that looks at the cost and consequences of the 2011 fight over the debt limit.
As you might expect it is not the most efficient way to run a government.

Via the transcript of a GAO interview with

We estimated that the delays in the–raising the debt limit in 2011 led to a 1.3 billion dollar increase in borrowing costs for fiscal year 2011. However, this does not take into account the multiple year effect on borrowing costs for Treasury securities that would continue to remain outstanding for years past fiscal year 2011. We also found that managing the debt during these delays required the use of Treasury personnel which, according to Treasury, resulted in some of those individuals not being able to spend and devote time to other important cash and debt management initiatives and responsibilities.

And from the report itself a few conclusions after the jump:
Read more

The session boilt down and a look into the future

Always a joy to try and wrap up a legislative session in 1200 or so words. This month’s Indy column is just that, with a focus on the last day or so of the short session and what the future portends.

Independent Weekly: A summer of mayhem courtesy of the N.C. Legislature

For an example of the damage an unchecked majority can do when it moves in lockstep, consider the last 30 or so hours of the recent session of the North Carolina General Assembly.

During the homestretch in Raleigh, the Legislature gutted racial justice legislation, defunded Planned Parenthood again, thumbed its nose at forced sterilization survivors and climate-change science, doled out dozens of anti-regulatory favors and not only fast-tracked fracking, but also packed a new board to oversee it with people very friendly to the oil and gas industry.

Some Further Thoughts
I’ve been trying to think through what next year’s session will look like. The election of 2012 should mean a few more Democrats in both the House and Senate, especially if turnout gets to 2008 levels. After that, there’s a major fork in the path of prediction depending on whether Dalton or McCrory wins the race for governor. That’s going to dictate a lot of what happens in the session. By far, the most chaotic outcome would be a McCrory win along with a tightening of the minority/majority margin in the House. You have some big egos and ambitious people in the mix and once you add the possibility that Tillis and Berger are looking at a challenge to Hagan, you’ve got extra volatility. It’s a scenario that could lead to some big initiatives, most likely in education and tax policy, if the players decide to scratch each others’ backs for pet projects.

A Dalton win, even with a sizable gain in the legislature, yields something more like the grind it out style we’re seeing now. North Carolina has a traditionally weak governorship and even with a veto, it’s still pretty much the General Assembly’s world that we’re all living in. It has not been pretty, but even a few more Democratic votes means a lot more breathing room against overrides. Primaries and retirements reduced the number of likely defections. That said, I think we’ll see Dalton walk a fine line on vetoes, taking out some of the social policy sure to be introduced should Stam and Company continue to hold sway, but preferring to cut deals on economic issues and any bill with the word “jobs” in the title.

Right now, I do not see much of a chance for a Democratic takeover of either the NC House or Senate. The House is likely to get closer and maybe even very close, but just around the corner is the mid-term election of 2014. As I’ve said many times, I think that’s where we’ll see the effects of redistricting and the consolidation of GOP electoral strength that began in 2010. Without big turnout and with the strong possibility that Voter ID and further voting restrictions could be in place, 2014 is another 2010 in the making, this time with redrawn districts enhancing the GOP’s chances.

Reuters says fracking land rush coming to an end

If you’re interested in the fracking issue, especially the big currents that drive it, there’s been no better source for insights than Reuters, which has exposed the land speculation, shady finances and inner dealings of some of the industry’s biggest players.
This latest analysis, based on the series, says the big energy-driven land rush is over.

With little evidence that its competitors are taking on the role of leading industry lease-buyer, Chesapeake’s new found frugality is expected to usher in a more sedate period of U.S. land buying, and a sizeable cultural shift for an industry that has been acquiring new acreage at almost any cost.

A surge in drilling into rich shale-gas seams from Pennsylvania to Texas has pushed natural gas prices to 10-year lows, forcing producers, including Chesapeake, to cut output and put the brakes on new wells.

In a practical sense, what that means for North Carolina is less frenzy, which is a good thing. It does not mean land speculation isn’t going to happen, but there’s less cash sloshing about and, because of prices, less economic incentive to open up new areas.

Reuters also is keeping up its investigative work on possible collusion on purchases between Chesapeake and Encana in Michigan.

As Chesapeake Energy Corp and Encana Corp face antitrust investigations, emails reviewed by Reuters indicate that top executives of the two rivals shared sensitive information that gave Chesapeake the upper hand in deals with Michigan land owners.

New sea level rise legislation

Update: Last night, the North Carolina Senate approved H819 40-1.
This morning after a long, spirited and often weird debate the NC House passed it 68-46.

Here’s the post from last night . . .

The final tweaks are in for H819, the much storied Study and Modify Certain Coastal Management Policies Act. The House is set to vote in the morning. The Senate is still in session. It’s 2:18 a.m.
Full bill history with links is here.
Here’s the new language mandating the sea-level rise policy. It’s mouthful:

The Coastal Resources Commission and the Division of Coastal Management of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall not define rates of sea-level change for regulatory purposes prior to July 1, 2016.

SECTION 2.(c) The Coastal Resources Commission shall direct its Science Panel to deliver its five-year updated assessment to its March 2010 report entitled “North Carolina Sea Level Rise Assessment Report” to the Commission no later than March 31, 2015. The Commission shall direct the Science Panel to include in its five-year updated assessment a comprehensive review and summary of peer-reviewed scientific literature that address the full range of global, regional, and North Carolina-specific sea-level change data and hypotheses, including sea-level fall, no movement in sea level, deceleration of sea-level rise, and acceleration of sea-level rise. When summarizing research dealing with sea level, the Commission and the Science Panel shall define the assumptions and limitations of predictive modeling used to predict future sea-level scenarios. The Commission shall make this report available to the general public and allow for submittal of public comments including a public hearing at the first regularly scheduled meeting after March 31, 2015. Prior to and upon receipt of this report, the Commission shall study the economic and environmental costs and benefits to the North Carolina coastal region of developing, or not developing, sea-level regulations and policies. The Commission shall also compare the determination of sea level based on historical calculations versus predictive models. The Commission shall also address the consideration of oceanfront and estuarine shorelines for dealing with sea-level assessment and not use one single sea-level rate for the entire coast. For oceanfront shorelines, the Commission shall use no fewer than the four regions defined in the April 2011 report entitled “North Carolina Beach and Inlet Management Plan” published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In regions that may lack statistically significant data, rates from adjacent regions may be considered and modified using generally accepted scientific and statistical techniques to account for relevant geologic and hydrologic processes. The Commission shall present a draft of this report, which shall also include the Commission’s Science Panel five-year assessment update, to the general public and receive comments from interested parties no later than December 31, 2015, and present these reports, including public comments and any policies the Commission has adopted or may be considering that address sea-level policies, to the General Assembly Environmental Review Commission no later than March 1, 2016.

Awaiting reaction from our state’s esteemed science community.