- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

July 7

The Herald-Sun, Durham, North Carolina, on domestic terrorism risks:

U. S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivered a blunt message last week that is worth remembering as we assess the risks and hazards in the world around us.

“Hate crimes themselves are the original domestic terrorism” Lynch said in her first official visit to Durham, where she grew up and attended high school, since she became attorney general.

She harkened back to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and then harkened back even further.

“I remember literally after 9/11 talking to civic groups about the trauma the country faced with those recent terrorist attacks, and reminding them that many of our citizens had been subjected to similar ones in the past.”

Her remarks, in the wake of the massacre of nine African-Americans at a Charleston, South Carolina, church, also touched on tragedy closer to home - the slaying in Chapel Hill of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Raza Abu-Salha. Lynch said she could offer no updates on the Department of Justice inquiry into whether that was a hate crime …

In recent months, we’ve been reminded often that, while not dismissing the threat of international terrorism, we would do well to heighten our focus on the domestic terrorism to which Lynch referred. In February, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a study that concluded the majority of domestic terrorism comes from “lone wolves,” disturbed individuals acting alone like the Charleston suspect, Dylann Roof.

The center’s study “included violence from both the radical right and homegrown jihadists,” a press release from the center reported. But the center particularly called on federal agencies to “reinvigorate their work studying and analyzing the radical right,” SPLC’s Mark Potok said.

The domestic terrorism numbers are widely acknowledged to be understated. Some police agencies fail to report them to national databases. And some victims may not report hate violence because of “a sense that nothing will be done,” Richard Cohen, president of the law center wrote in The Washington Post.

“This is particularly troubling,” he wrote, “because we’re in the midst of a strong - and often violent - backlash to the growing diversity and tolerance in our country.”

We’ve seen too many manifestations of that backlash and will sadly no doubt see more. That’s why the new attorney general’s admonition to heed domestic terrorism here last week was so very resonant.




July 7

News and Record, Greensboro, North Carolina, on college tuition and veterans:

North Carolina lawmakers don’t like to be forced to do things, especially by the federal government.

They’ve resisted calls to expand Medicaid … The legislature overrode Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2, which says civil magistrates can refuse to perform marriages if they have what the law calls “a sincerely held religious objection.” …

And while many Southern states are taking steps to banish the Confederate battle flag from government spaces, McCrory and legislative leaders can’t seem to figure out who exactly has the power to erase this odious symbol from specialty license plates issued by the state.

But North Carolina lawmakers aren’t recalcitrant all the time.

Take the new law that McCrory signed June 24. Senate Bill 478, which took effect last week, makes it easier for veterans to qualify for in-state tuition rates at state universities and community colleges. More specifically, it waives the requirement in certain instances that veterans must live in North Carolina for at least a year before qualifying for the lower in-state rate. The law applies to veterans who enroll in college within three years of being discharged from military service and are eligible for certain federal military education benefits. Veterans must live in North Carolina while they’re in school and declare their intent to become residents.

The new law makes a lot of sense for North Carolina. The state has the nation’s fourth-largest active-duty military population, and many of those stationed at Fort Bragg or Camp Lejeune came here from outside North Carolina. The tuition break will give a lot of former soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines a good reason to stay in North Carolina when their military careers are over …

North Carolina was one of 18 states that still charged veterans out-of-state tuition rates until they could establish residency - not exactly a military-friendly move. The new state law merely brings North Carolina in line with what most states already have done and what the rest will have to do under the new federal law.

North Carolina lawmakers could have delayed or put up barriers as they have with Medicaid, same-sex marriages and Confederate-themed license plates. It’s good to see that they’re not so stubborn all the time.




July 2

Charlotte Observer on monitoring air quality:

One year ago, inside a 65-page environmental bill, Republicans in Raleigh crafted a single sentence designed to cripple the state’s air quality monitoring network.

The provision, which was part of the 2014 Regulatory Reform Act, required the removal of any N.C. ambient air quality monitors not required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Doing so would have eliminated more than half of the 132 state-run air quality monitors.

The proposal brought a strong gust of statewide ridicule …

Republicans were ultimately chastened. The provision was pulled.

Get ready to choke again.

This week, a new “Regulatory Reform Act” surfaced in the N.C. Senate, which passed it Wednesday. Tucked in the 54-page bill is the same sentence that appeared a year ago: “The Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall request the removal of any ambient air monitors not required by applicable federal laws and regulations.”

Except this time, DENR isn’t objecting. Why? Because in the past year, the agency quietly has done what it argued against - cutting dozens of air quality monitors.

As of this week, DENR is operating only 74 monitors across the state. The agency also is planning to ask the EPA to eliminate 12 more monitors as part of its proposed 2016 network plan. That will bring the total down from 132 to 62, a spokesperson confirmed to the editorial board Wednesday.

“DENR is already doing what is mandated (in the 2015 bill),” the agency said in a note to senators this week.

The reason for the cuts? “Air quality has improved in NC so much over the last decade that these monitors are no longer needed and there will be no adverse health effects,” DENR said in its note. A spokesperson reiterated that to the editorial board.

The same was true, however, about our air quality a year ago. But then, DENR spokesman Tom Mather made a strong case for keeping the monitors to the Raleigh News & Observer …

DENR is right, however, about the improvement in our state’s air quality. There’s at least one reason for that good news: North Carolina has been a pioneer in air-quality efforts, with its Clean Smokestacks Act of 2002 serving as a model for many states.

Now we’re moving in the opposite direction. This year’s Regulatory Reform Act is another wholesale weakening of environmental rules. From granting legal immunity to polluters who perform environmental self-audits, to eliminating regulations about idling heavy-duty vehicles, the bill lives up to its intention of being business friendly. But it does so at the cost of protecting the resources that help our state attract people and business …



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