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]
Also:
– 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.’”

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.

HAVA funds go missing

One of the biggest devils in the details of the budget compromise hammered out between the NC House and Senate is the missing match for the Help America Vote Act funds. The state is missing out on $4 million in federal dollars to help with election work. Previous versions of the budget included a 660K match needed to get the funds. Instead, there’s actually a cut in funding in the new budget for the Board of Elections.
I just can’t imagine any way a reasonable person could see this as anything but vote suppression.

Here’s Bob Hall from Democracy NC on the matter:

From Democracy North Carolina — June 21, 2012

Do Republican Leaders Want An Election Melt-Down in NC?

Something very strange happened in the final version of the State Budget that House and Senate leaders rolled out yesterday. It eliminates provisions in earlier versions passed by the House and Senate to provide about $600,000 that would automatically release over $4 million in federal funds for improving North Carolina’s election system for 2012.

The $4 million from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is already in a North Carolina bank account, frozen until matching State money is appropriated. The federal funds could be used to pay for voting machine maintenance, software and upgrades, poll workers training, and Early Voting locations. But apparently the legislative leaders decided they would rather starve local election boards than free up money that could open more Early Voting sites for the 2012 election!

County election boards already must pay more than $5 million to operate the second primary in July. Without the HAVA funds, they must get their county commissioners to pay annual machine maintenance fees that add up to $3 million statewide, beginning July 1. In addition, they face the headache of administering the November elections with new district maps, including hundreds of split precincts that complicate ballots and add to voter confusion and delays.

The warning signs are here: The lack of proper poll worker training and equipment failure led to a large number of voters getting the wrong ballots in the May primary!

Starving NC elections is an extremely partisan decision that affects all voters. It sends the message that Republican leaders in the General Assembly are determined to make voting a privilege for the few rather than a fundamental right for all citizens.

It didn’t have to be this way, and for a time everything pointed to a reasonable approach for releasing the $4 million in federal funds.

In a February letter and then in an April resolution, the bipartisan Election Boards Association of North Carolina asked the General Assembly to appropriate the roughly $660,000 of Maintenance of Effort (MOE) State funding needed to free up $4.1 million of Title II HAVA funds.

The House version of the budget, approved in May, included $663,936 for the MOE – see pages 10 and 103:
http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/sessions/2011/budget/2012/House_Committee_Substitute_for_HB-950_2012-05-30.pdf

The Senate version included $563,936 with a provision that the State Board of Elections could use money from another account to make up any difference needed to hit the right level of MOE funding. See the Senate version, pages 10 and 84:
http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/sessions/2011/budget/2012/Senate_Committee_Report_2012-06-12.pdf

But when the two sides came together behind closed doors, the General Assembly leaders apparently argued about whether some of this money would go for purposes they didn’t like — so they just cut it out!

The final House/Senate Conference Report actually includes a $102,000 reduction in funding for the State Board of Elections and left the Title II money frozen, except for a small portion to improve compliance with disability access. Look for SBOE funding on page 10 and page 94 of this PDF document:
http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/sessions/2011/budget/2012/Conference_Committee_Report_2012-06-20.pdf

Why are legislative leaders so determined to throw a monkey wrench into North Carolina’s election system in the busiest, most intense election cycle in our history?

What’s wrong with DC?

Just got another fundraising letter that pitched the battle as National-Us versus National Thems.
Sorry, not really in the mood. Kinda thinking local. Just me and my 10 million homies and, you know, our civil rights.

Sometimes the popular posts on Politico reminds me of everything wrong with D.C.

Record breaking early vote in NC

This just out from Bob Hall at DemocracyNC:

NEWS ALERT: EARLY VOTING HITS RECORD WITH NEARLY 500,000 BALLOTS CAST

Here are some highlights from the election watchdog group Democracy North Carolina based on the data posted this afternoon on the FTP site of the State Board of Elections:

See Democracy North Carolina’s spreadsheet with a breakdown of the data at:

http://www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/EarlyVoteRegisTurnoutPrim2012.xls

** One-Stop Early Voting ended Saturday afternoon with a record turnout of North Carolina voters — 490,540 ballots were accepted by the end of the day or about 4% more than the 473,800 cast in the 2008 primary.

** This number only includes ballots accepted at the Early Voting sites — technically called “in-person absentee ballots.” An additional 16,600 absentee ballots had been received by Saturday through the mail, etc., bringing the total early votes cast to over 500,000 thus far. More mail-in absentee ballots are expected.

** Democrats and Republicans essentially matched each other in overall turnout rates — 8.2% of registered Democrats and 8.3% of registered Republicans used One-Stop Early Voting to participate in the 2012 primary.

** 8.6% of white registered voters and 5.6% of black registered voters used One-Stop Early Voting; women outperformed men, with a 8.0% versus 7.6% turnout rate.

** The top 10 counties for turnout of their registered voters are Alleghany, Transylvania, Mitchell, Chatham, Bladen, Orange, Alexander, Watauga, Durham and Caldwell, with turnout rates reaching 17% of registered voters.

** The 7 counties with the highest number of ballots cast during One-Stop Early Voting provided about 36% of the total cast; they are in order: Wake, Mecklenburg, Durham, Guilford, Buncombe, Orange, and Forsyth. All are strong Democratic counties — but several had turnout rates below the 7.8% state average.

** The 9 counties with the biggest percent increase in number of One-Stop Early Voting ballots cast this year over the 2008 primary are: Mitchell, Alexander, Stokes, Davie, Gaston, Randolph, Caldwell, Burke, and Ashe. All are strong Republican counties.

** Of the 100,000 Unaffiliated voters who cast a ballot during One-Stop Early Voting, 45% chose to cast a ballot in the Republican primary, 35% cast a Democratic ballot, and 20% cast Unaffiliated ballots.