- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Dec. 11

The Charlotte Observer on considering local gun laws:

In June 2013, months after the horrific shootings in Newtown, Conn., the town of Highland Park, Ill., passed an ordinance prohibiting the ownership of semi-automatic assault weapons with high-capacity magazines.

Besides reacting to the killing of 26 people at Sandy Hook, the town council was trying to beat the clock on a new state law that would soon block local governments from enacting gun control measures.

The Illinois State Rifle Association and a local resident challenged the law. Twenty-four states would file a supporting brief in the case. But a federal appeals court in Chicago sided with the town, and on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court effectively did too.

It’s far from the first time the Supreme Court has declined to hear a Second Amendment challenge against local and state gun control measures. In June, for example, the court declined to hear a challenge to two San Francisco ordinances challenged by the NRA. As with the Highland Park law, only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas voted to hear the case.

The court’s non-action in those two cases and others will likely embolden cities and states to pass their own gun-control provisions rather than waiting on a Congress loyal to the NRA to do so. While certain regulations need to be national in scope to be effective, a place-by-place response acknowledges that the gun culture in Miami is different from the one in Cheyenne.

Perhaps Charlotte and other N.C. cities will now consider banning certain weapons? If they do, they’re wasting their time. North Carolina’s Democrat-led legislature passed a so-called preemption law in 1995 preventing it.

“Unless otherwise permitted by statute,” GS 14-409.40(b) reads, “no county or municipality, by ordinance, resolution, or other enactment, shall regulate in any manner the possession, ownership, storage, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of firearms, firearms ammunition, components of firearms, dealers in firearms, or dealers in handgun components or parts.”

Well that pretty much covers it, doesn’t it? We’re guessing that this legislature, even with its conservative bent, would not back the conservative idea of pushing control of this issue to the level of government closest to the people.

But it should. Besides furthering local self-governance, lawmakers could do so with the confidence that the basic Second Amendment right the preemption law was designed to protect has been explicitly affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2008 and again in 2010.

Duke Law professor Joseph Blocher pointed out in the New York Times this week that there’s no reason gun restrictions need to be the same in urban areas as in rural ones. Stricter regulation in urban areas makes sense. “This kind of geographic tailoring offers some political and constitutional solutions to the current stalemate,” Blocher writes.

North Carolina’s legislature should consider that, in this case, different approaches in different areas make a lot of sense.




Dec. 16

The News & Record of Greensboro on lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s legislative districts:

North Carolina Deputy Attorney General Alexander Peters put up a strong defense last month against a lawsuit challenging the state’s gerrymandered legislative districts.

The case was argued before a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court in Greensboro.

Plaintiffs, represented by Anita Earls of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, asked the judges to delay the scheduled March 15 primary until they decide the constitutional issues raised by the suit. Peters objected, saying a delay would throw the elections into disarray. He also contended the case isn’t clearly defined. “The General Assembly needs to know what the criteria are, and the plaintiffs haven’t provided one,” he said.

The judges might rule either way. A U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year in an Alabama redistricting case suggests there may be flaws in the approach taken by the North Carolina legislature to heavily concentrate minority voters in a small number of districts.

The point is that the North Carolina Department of Justice, led by Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, has vigorously and effectively defended the state’s position - even though that position was crafted by Republicans.

Cooper’s office has had too many opportunities to defend questionable actions by the legislature when the state has been sued by its own cities, such as Asheville, Charlotte and Greensboro, and by citizens and organizations on subjects ranging from voting rights to abortion to school vouchers to teacher tenure to vanity license plates. Since last month’s arguments, new lawsuits have challenged the infamous Senate Bill 2, which allows some courthouse employees to opt out of marriage-related duties, and a measure that eliminates true elections for N.C. Supreme Court justices.

Sometimes, the NCDOJ has declined to defend the indefensible. Cooper refused to go to bat for the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage once he saw the trend of federal court rulings. He was vindicated by the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down such bans.

He declined to defend the legislature’s bill changing Greensboro’s City Council structure, citing lack of staff time. He also has refused to enter legal frays over immigration and transgendered students.

Sometimes the best choice, and least expensive, is to avoid unnecessary litigation. But that’s not the position of Republican legislators or Gov. Pat McCrory, who want to pull the state into legal battles that might appeal to their political supporters. And they’re willing to spend plenty of taxpayers’ money to do it.

Legislators included $8 million in the current two-year budget for litigation expenses. They and the governor often hire private attorneys to defend their actions, claiming they don’t trust Cooper and his staff. They’ve spent millions already; it’s discouraging that they plan to spend more.

The attorney general is the rightful advocate for the state’s legal positions - even if those positions lack legal merit. Spending millions for more lawyers isn’t a smart use of public funds.




Dec. 15

The Fayetteville Observer on state legislative leaders resigning and retiring from positions:

Help wanted. Must be willing to work for dirt-poor wages in return for the chance to run one of the biggest states in the country. Experience not required - well, OK, some political experience would be really useful. Apply at the Board of Elections.

At the rate people are resigning and retiring in the General Assembly, some recruiting may be in order. Some big names are calling it quits. They include Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam, and longtime Senate tax reformer Bob Rucho. All of them will retire at the end of this term. Others - like House veteran Rick Glazier of Fayetteville - are already gone after a mid-term resignation.

But then, turnover is a way of life in our legislature these days. More than 100 of the 170 lawmakers serving in 2010 are no longer there. In large part, that’s because of the Republican revolution that seized legislative control after more than a century of Democratic rule. And it’s unclear if the Democrats have the muscle to win much of it back.

But we do know this: We need both parties to put up their best and brightest, and then let the voters decide who should be in charge. We hope there are some good people willing to answer the ad and apply for the job.





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