Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Charlotte Observer/Raleigh News and Observer. September 23, 2022.

Editorial: NC Republicans who voted to overturn 2020 election oppose plan to avoid another coup

Almost everything in Congress — access to contraception, lowering the cost of insulin, infrastructure — seems to be about politics. One might hope, though, that partisanship could be put aside for something as important as democracy.

Apparently not. Because when the House passed critical legislation on Wednesday intended to prevent a repeat of the 2020 coup attempt, the vote fell almost entirely along party lines. Every Republican in North Carolina’s delegation — and there are nine of them — voted no.

The bill closes glaring loopholes in the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act — loopholes that Donald Trump and his allies exploited in their plot to overturn the last presidential election. It raises the threshold required for members of Congress to object to a state’s electoral votes, and clarifies that the vice president cannot refuse to certify the results, as Trump tried to pressure Mike Pence to do on Jan. 6.

It shouldn’t be controversial. A bipartisan group of senators, including North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, has introduced a strong and broadly similar measure. Yet House Republican leaders officially rallied against the bill, decrying it as “nothing more than an unconstitutional partisan power grab.” (Maybe they just forgot about the unconstitutional partisan power grab that almost happened last year.)

There are few, if any, legitimate reasons to oppose Electoral Count Act reform, which is probably why Republicans didn’t offer very many of them. Instead, Republicans did what they do best: they diverted the conversation to “real” issues that affect “real” Americans, like inflation, the border crisis and Joe Biden. One lawmaker suggested on the House floor that no one really cares about Electoral Count Act reform besides “woke yuppies” who comprise the Democratic base.

Republicans also cited the fact that the legislation was introduced by two members of the House’s Jan. 6 committee, including GOP pariah Liz Cheney — which apparently makes it biased and unserious by default.

“If it comes out of a rotten process, you probably ought to begin with a healthy level of skepticism,” Rep. Dan Bishop, a North Carolina Republican, told Axios this week.

But there’s a very big difference between a “healthy level of skepticism” and writing something off completely. When all was said and done, there were only nine Republicans who voted in favor of the bill, and all of them either lost their primaries or intend to retire next year anyway. The other 203 apparently decided it was OK to leave the door open for future elections to be stolen — another reminder of the vise-like grip Trump still has on his party.

Of course, all but one House Republican from North Carolina voted to overturn the 2020 election results, and none of them voted for Trump’s impeachment, so maybe Wednesday’s vote shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Still, it’s shameful that they would oppose reform after everything we’ve learned about Jan. 6, and it’s a disservice to voters.

Call us idealists, but what’s most troubling is that there truly doesn’t seem to be anything that will prompt elected officials to put politics aside. We came alarmingly close to an actual constitutional crisis, yet Republicans don’t seem particularly intent on preventing a future one. It’s no longer just the fringe members of the Republican Party that we have to worry about with elections — it’s every Republican who lets personal vendettas and partisanship impact policy when the stakes are this high.

If Republicans have issues with the bill, they should specify what they are. They should also offer solutions, instead of slamming it as a “messaging bill” or suggesting it’s a waste of time. That’s what lawmakers do with worthy legislation — they work with each other and between chambers to shape it into something everyone can accept.

Of course, at least some and perhaps many Republicans don’t really want to protect elections. In the end, the GOP’s biggest objection to Electoral Count Act reform seems to be that it reminds people the former president tried a coup. Supporting the bill would require them to finally admit, at least implicitly, that what happened on and before Jan. 6 was wrong. They’ve already shown us they refuse to do that.

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Winston-Salem Journal. September 26, 2022.

Editorial: Preserving our beautiful state

Let’s face it: If you live in North Carolina, you hit the jackpot.

In the Piedmont Triad, we have moderate temperatures, more sunny days than rainy days and we’ve made investments in preserving our natural environment that makes it tempting pretty much any day to take a break and enjoy the great outdoors. The same is largely true for the rest of the state, from the mountains to the seashore — including even our largest cities, where no one is too far from the country to access some fresh air and greenery.

One of the best instincts we have — as citizens, volunteers and legislators — is to continue to set aside land and water for ourselves and for future generations.

It’s in keeping with this instinct and legislative priority that Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced state grant funding for 23 new land, water and recreational projects in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina last week, as the Journal’s Richard Craver reported Monday. Significantly large tracts of land have been set aside for preservation and recreation — with an awareness of the realistic challenges of industrialization, pollution and climate change and the proper steps needed to meet those challenges.

The grants will protect 27,157 acres from mountains to shore, including 20,998 acres that will eventually be open to the public for recreation: hiking, biking, hunting, boating, birding and spiritual contemplation.

Grants will also support 37 projects to restore or enhance waterways — streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries and 8,000 acres of drained wetlands — as well as four projects designed to evaluate innovative techniques for managing stormwater.

Eight planning projects will also identify key water quality and conservation opportunities in state watersheds.

“In addition to protecting water quality, these state investments will increase recreation opportunities, conserve wildlife habitat, preserve historic and cultural sites, and enhance quality of life,” Reid Wilson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said in a statement.

The grants include $1.5 million for the Shoe Buckle Tract project in the Walnut Cove area of Stokes County, which will be developed by the Piedmont Land Conservancy. Plans call for this tract to eventually become part of a state forest.

Ashe County received seven grants worth a combined total of $1.1 million, including $234,675 for the Expansion Tract East project at Three Top Mountain Game Land, which will be developed by the Blue Ridge Conservancy.

Watauga County received a total of $2.18 million for six projects, including $750,000 to for the Peacock Lot and the Boone Creek Daylighting project and $669,000 for the mouth of Hardin Creek project, both to be developed by the New River Conservancy.

Cooper also declared Sept. 26-30 as North Carolina Clean Energy Week to highlight the work the state is doing to advance clean energy. That’s appropriate, considering North Carolina’s designation as the most “solar-friendly” state in the Southeast — seventh nationally — by House Method, a national home-services research firm, as the Journal’s John Deem reported earlier this month.

Overall, solar investment in North Carolina now tops $10 billion, the fifth highest in the nation, according to the report. We’re behind only California, Texas and Florida in terms of overall volume.

“North Carolina has for some time enjoyed a ranking toward the top of the national solar leaderboard as a result of strong bipartisan policies allowing the industry to grow and thrive in the state,” Matt Abele, director of marketing and communications at the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, said — also noting that the solar industry employs more than 8,000 people in the state.

These accomplishments have largely been achieved by cooperation between the governor’s office and the Republican-controlled state legislature, which has realized the seriousness of carbon dioxide emissions; they’ve set a target of reducing them by 70% by 2030 and reaching carbon-neutral status by 2050.

This positions us well for the future as a national leader in preservation and innovation.

We can all do our part to preserve our environment, through individual and community efforts and through voting wisely. Saving the Earth isn’t just for scientists and teenaged activists anymore.

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