- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

___

June 29

The Charlotte Observer on a state lawmaker wanting to take the first step toward impeaching Secretary of State Elaine Marshall:

On Wednesday afternoon, in the midst of a breathless display of legislative pettiness in Raleigh, Rep. Becky Carney of Mecklenburg County tried to get her head around what was happening in front of her.

At an N.C. House committee meeting, a Republican lawmaker wanted to take the first step toward impeaching Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a Democrat. This despite having no state legal opinion or law enforcement agency saying Marshall had even done anything wrong.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Carney said.

We have another suggestion. North Carolinians, regardless of their political persuasion, should be outraged at the depths to which political acrimony has sunk in their state legislature. It’s poisonous and it’s dangerous, and it is not limited to an action against the secretary of state. But this attack is especially contemptible.

It’s one that began back in February, when Republican Rep. Chris Millis of Pender County launched an investigation into whether Marshall was allowing undocumented immigrants to be notaries public. Millis says Marshall’s office has licensed more than 300 non-citizens as notaries. But at least 250 of those are in the federal DACA program, which allows people brought illegally to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. State and federal laws don’t require notaries to be U.S. citizens, but they are required to “reside legally in the United States.”

Marshall, in a statement, said that every non-citizen has presented “appropriate federally-issued work authorization documentation” and that her office has “openly communicated with the General Assembly about our process.” If Republicans thought otherwise, they could raise the issue with state attorneys or law enforcement.

Millis, it appears, hasn’t had any success doing things the right way. When asked by Rep. Nelson Dollar of Wake County if any state or federal law enforcement agency had decided to investigate or bring charges against Marshall, Millis said only that he “did a legislative request.”

“The answer to the question is no,” Dollar shot back, according to WRAL.com.

Dollar, as it happens, is a Republican. Yet even he decided to join his party members on the committee in voting for a resolution calling for an impeachment investigation. If the full House approves, a committee of nine Republicans and six Democrats will decide if there’s enough evidence to warrant proceedings that would remove Marshall from office.

It is, sadly, only the latest example of how Republicans have moved from mere political vitriol, from the usual sniping across the aisle, to very real attacks on people’s livelihoods and careers.

Just this legislative session, Republicans have gutted the office of Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein with nonsensical budget cuts that will likely result in the firings of more than 100 attorneys and staffers. In that same budget, Republicans also surgically removed the positions of three staffers in the Department of Public Instruction who happened to be campaign volunteers for former state superintendent June Atkinson, a Democrat.

And now this - a significant step toward impeachment proceedings without waiting for legal or law enforcement support. Don’t laugh, North Carolina. Don’t cry. Be ashamed at what your state legislature has become.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

___

June 30

The Fayetteville Observer on state funds helping aid areas affected by flooding from Hurricane Matthew:

Gov. Roy Cooper brought good news to Robeson County Wednesday: $70 million in disaster assistance from the state. The money will help finance the beleaguered county’s recovery from the horrific flooding caused by last fall’s Hurricane Matthew.

The money will arrive in community development block grants. Most of it will be used to repair or replace damaged housing. It will include grants to several of the nonprofit volunteer groups that continue to to work on flood relief across eastern North Carolina.

Cooper also announced an initiative that in the long term could be even more valuable: The state will contribute $100,000 for a study of ways to prevent future flooding in the Lumber River basin. “To be on pins and needles during every storm, not know if you’re about to be subjected to another flood is really difficult,” Cooper said. “We want to learn why this flooding happened and what can keep it from happening again. This study can identify ways to protect Lumberton, keep its residents safe and help flood insurance rates remain stable so homeowners and businesses can return.”

The study eventually should cover all of eastern North Carolina, where rising sea levels and, in some places, sinking land masses, make flooding an increasingly common event. It’s government’s job to plan for the future, and we’re happy to see it stepping up to do it.

Online: https://www.fayobserver.com/

___

July 2

News & Record of Greensboro on state lawmakers passing a bill that would allow a county to take public notices out of newspapers:

In the dead of night, the General Assembly voted to send Guilford County down the path into darkness.

The legislature passed a bill Wednesday, just before midnight, that, if signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, would allow the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to take public notices out of newspapers and off newspapers’ websites. Instead, the county’s website would be the repository for notices about such things as government contracts, public meetings, rezoning proposals, foreclosures and unclaimed property.

Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) was the force behind this. She sponsored Senate Bill 343, which would create a four-county pilot program that included Guilford.

That bill passed the Senate but never gained support in the House. But Wade wouldn’t let go. The proposal for a pilot program was attached to another bill, HB 205, which was added to and removed from the House calendar four times between Tuesday and Wednesday. The bill ended up in conference on Wednesday evening, and Wade agreed to remove three counties from the pilot program, leaving only Guilford County.

At 11:47 on Wednesday night, the House passed the measure by a vote of 60-53.

So Wade finally got what she wanted. Some Greensboro Democrats who serve in the House said Wade’s aim was to exact revenge on the News & Record because she is angry about stories and editorials the paper has written, including coverage of SB 36, which would have reshaped Greensboro City Council elections. Wade pushed that bill through the legislature in 2015, only to see it declared unconstitutional in the courts earlier this year.

If Gov. Roy Cooper signs this bill and the commissioners pass an ordinance to move notices to its website, it will do damage to the News & Record. We receive money to run legal advertisements, but it is not a large percentage of our revenue as some members of the House claimed.

The bill will do much more damage to Guilford County’s citizens and to other newspapers, such as the Jamestown News, which may go out of business because of the bill, the Carolina Peacemaker and the High Point Enterprise.

Wade and those who supported this bill got it wrong on several counts. They contended that this will somehow increase transparency despite the fact that the county’s and city’s websites received nowhere near the readership of the News & Record’s print edition and greensboro.com.

They also intimated this was a move to make it free to access these notices online. Although a pay wall at greensboro.com limits non-subscribers to 12 article views per month, the public notices are in front of that pay wall and free to all.

Further, Wade’s bill also makes for a less transparent government. The commissioners now could control the process of notifying the public. As public watchdogs, newspapers and their websites are the logical place for such notices.

Finally, logistical questions about how the county would handle public notices have not been addressed. Those include how the county will track the notices, collect payments and make sure they are posted correctly. The bill includes no details about standards for placement, archive requirements or a plan to provide independent verification. The notices must be unalterable for legal purposes, a key reason to keep them in newspapers.

When Forsyth County still was included in the proposed, four-county pilot program, its clerk of court told House members she wasn’t prepared to take on those roles and that she would need to add to her staff. It’s clear that this is a bill aimed not at improving public access to information but at hurting the newspaper industry. We urge Gov. Cooper to veto HB 205.

Online: https://www.greensboro.com/

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide