Tag Archives: North Carolina

Is North Carolina stuck in an abusive relationship?

Behavior of state leaders, state policy community raise warning flags

Image: NC Policy Watch

The last seven years in North Carolina politics and policy have been extraordinary. In a very short period of time, a once moderate state has been transformed into a kind of laboratory for far right policies and a testing ground for what we are coming to know now as Trumpism. On issue after issue, state legislative leaders have aggressively pursued an ultra-conservative agenda that seeks to radically remake the state’s social contract.

What’s more, this has not been a happy or buoyant transformation. Rather than being predicated on a positive or hopeful new vision of society, the conservative revolution in North Carolina has mostly been a counter-revolution. Even today, a point at which they enjoy veto-proof majorities and can realistically contemplate an entire decade in power, conservative legislative leaders premise most of their actions and policies more on an angry rejection of past supposed transgressions by Democrats than a coherent articulation of what they want to build.

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NC’s Final budget delivers hits to legal services, emergency judges, Department of Justice

It’s only been a little over 24 hours since the North Carolina General Assembly introduced its final budget and its already well on its way to a House vote after passing the Senate on Tuesday.

There is plenty to read in the 438-page document and plenty to get confused about. Below are a few highlights from the Justice and Public Safety budget:

Raise the Age

Lawmakers have finally agreed to raise the juvenile age of prosecution from 16 and 17 years old to 18 years old. The final budget allocates $519,600 the first fiscal year toward “Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act Planning” and $478,000 the second fiscal year.

The budget policy decision mandates that 16- and 17-year-olds who are accused of committing misdemeanors and two classes of felonies no longer be automatically prosecuted in the adult criminal system.

The policy decision also increases the information available on juveniles to law enforcement and establishes a juvenile jurisdiction advisory committee to help with implementation. You can read more about the decision beginning on page 309 of the budget.

The proposed budget would cut $1.7 million in legal services programs across the state, affecting those most in need and almost assuredly creating unequal access to justice.

The Access to Civil Justice Act funds all traditional legal services programs, including Legal Aid Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Pisgah Legal Services.

As written in the final budget, the provision means that $1.50 of every court fee imposed in District and Superior Courts would no longer be distributed to the North Carolina State Bar for legal services. It could also mean reducing LANC staff across the state by 50 to 60 or more positions.

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Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to “Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies”

A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project.

Internal TigerSwan communications describe the movement as “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component” and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters. One report, dated February 27, 2017, states that since the movement “generally followed the jihadist insurgency model while active, we can expect the individuals who fought for and supported it to follow a post-insurgency model after its collapse.” Drawing comparisons with post-Soviet Afghanistan, the report warns, “While we can expect to see the continued spread of the anti-DAPL diaspora … aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements are now a proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies.”

More than 100 internal documents leaked to The Intercept by a TigerSwan contractor, as well as a set of over 1,000 documents obtained via public records requests, reveal that TigerSwan spearheaded a multifaceted private security operation characterized by sweeping and invasive surveillance of protesters.

As policing continues to be militarized and state legislatures around the country pass laws criminalizing protest, the fact that a private security firm retained by a Fortune 500 oil and gas company coordinated its efforts with local, state, and federal law enforcement to undermine the protest movement has profoundly anti-democratic implications. The leaked materials not only highlight TigerSwan’s militaristic approach to protecting its client’s interests but also the company’s profit-driven imperative to portray the nonviolent water protector movement as unpredictable and menacing enough to justify the continued need for extraordinary security measures. Energy Transfer Partners has continued to retain TigerSwan long after most of the anti-pipeline campers left North Dakota, and the most recent TigerSwan reports emphasize the threat of growing activism around other pipeline projects across the country.

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4 Libs And… Clarence Thomas Unite To Smack North Carolina’s Racial Gerrymandering

This isn’t a surprising vote from Thomas, if you know how crazy he really is.

Clarence Thomas is color-blind. Granted, he’s taken that to the logical extreme of stabbing out his own eyes so he figuratively can’t see anything even when it’s staring him right in the face. But he would rather let you be racist than allow the law to acknowledge race.

It’s frustrating when this blind race-denier fumbles about preventing progress because he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the world as it is. But occasionally, rarely, Thomas’s philosophy leads him to a place that isn’t completely wrong and unhelpful.

Such is the case in Cooper v. Harris. Justice Elena Kagan wrote a majority opinion concluding that North Carolina illegally used race in gerrymandering one of its districts. The opinion upheld a lower court ruling.

The 5 – 3 majority was made up of Kagan, Justices Ginsburg, Bryer, Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. Thomas signed on, in full, to Kagan’s opinion. He wrote a short concurrence to basically say “I always think this, but sometimes the libs are dumb.”

That doesn’t happen every Monday.

The whole issue of racial gerrymandering involves the Courts trying to prescribe when and how it’s okay for district map makers to be racist. The standard is that race cannot be the “predominate” factor in drawing a district. But politics can be. And so the game, regardless of whether you are trying to give minorities less electoral power or representative electoral power, is to figure out how to do it without making race “predominate.”

Whatever the hell that means.

North Carolina had a couple of districts where black candidates had a decent shot at winning, and so North Carolina got the bright idea of trying to shove as many minorities as possible into those districts, leaving the rest of their districts free of meddlesome darkies who might screw up their by-whites, for-whites election. North Carolina came up with the novel argument that the Voting Rights Act required the state to shove all the black people into a few districts, to make the state comply with fair political representation, even though the districts they were shoving people into were already balanced. Moreover, North Carolina gerrymanders didn’t really engage into any kind of inquiry into the political make-up of those districts: they just kind of noticed that there were a lot of black people in those districts and essentially tried to ghettoize them.

Kagan and the Court were unimpressed.

That’s not surprising from the liberals, but it is also NOT surprising from Thomas. Thomas doesn’t think racial gerrymandering is okay, and he doesn’t much care if you are doing it to help minorities or to hurt minorities. In his brief concurrence, he adds “In my view, §2 [of the Voting Rights Act] does not apply to redistricting and therefore cannot justify a racial gerrymander.”

Court fines and fees: Another barrier to North Carolina’s ballot box

How much money do you have to pay before you cast your ballot on Election Day?

Image result for court fees
Image: myfloridalaw.com

For most North Carolinians, the answer might seem obvious: none. As the cornerstone of our democracy, voting is supposed to be fair, accessible – and free. But for an increasing number of North Carolinians, the right to vote can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

How is that possible? The answer is because North Carolina denies the right to vote to people who have felony convictions but cannot afford to pay their court costs, even if they have satisfied all other probation requirements.

Thanks to an ever-growing system of mandatory fines and fees, those caught up in the criminal justice system can be forced to pay anywhere from $40 to hundreds of dollars a month for the cost of their court administration, jail fees, probation, electronic monitoring, drug testing, even community service – and more. If they are unable to pay, they face a penalty fee for nonpayment, increasing their fees and lengthening their probation period.

These costs have increased substantially over time. In 1999, the base cost a person would pay for a superior court date was $106. Today the base cost is $198 with the potential to grow to more than $10,000 in serious cases as additional penalties snowball. Even if they have served all the terms of their sentence, even if they have had no probation violations, low-income people often remain on probation simply because they are low-income. And in far too many North Carolina courts, judges will not conduct hearings on a person’s inability to pay, as is required by law.

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Wake up people! The Right is just getting started…North Carolina General Assembly…Rouge One

Image: NC Policy Watch

Conservatives are working to radically overhaul the American social contract

At the conclusion of the whirlwind 2011 session of the North Carolina General Assembly — a session in which new conservative majorities pushed through a raft of dramatic policy changes —many progressive North Carolinians surveyed the aftermath and found themselves actually breathing a sigh of relief. There was a widespread feeling that the fury of the storm had passed, that the Right had vented its collective spleen and that, having pushed through so much of its long-stymied policy agenda, conservative leaders would settle down to focus on governing the state.

The simple truth is that the Right was then and is now only just getting started. If you doubt this, take a gander at the outrageous list of destructive proposals debated in the General Assembly last week. On issue after issue – K-12 and higher education, taxes, voting rights, the environment, the safety net, church and state, immigration, guns, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the relationship between corporations and human beings – conservative politicians and advocacy groups that inform and fuel their efforts are pushing the envelope ever further to the right.

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North Carolina Cop Placed on Leave After Video Shows Him Slamming Teen Onto Floor

A North Carolina police officer captured on video body slamming a high school student has been placed on paid administrative leave, police and school officials said Tuesday. Widely circulated footage shows the officer picking up the female student by her torso and then throwing her down hard onto the floor. The incident stemmed from a…

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