- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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June 26

The News & Observer of Raleigh on EPA cuts affecting jobs at the Research Triangle:

Boasts and promises from presidential candidates can have consequences. Now, those consequences are about to be felt in the Research Triangle, with an astounding proposal from the Trump administration to cut the EPA’s budget by more than 30 percent.

The president wants deregulation of virtually everything, especially the financial industry, where his billionaire friends want the freedom to gamble with the economy. With environment regulation it’s the same. Trump and his advisers see regulation an an hindrance to energy exploration and a general drag on industry.

The ominous possibilities in Trump’s environmental policies now are seen in the EPA cutbacks. To start, buyouts have been offered to more than 1,200 employees agency-wide. Other cutbacks may affect as many as 700 nonprofit and state jobs in the Triangle. Those jobs may not report directly to the EPA, but they’re funded by the agency.

Consider, for example, that more than 350 economists, engineers and scientists working at the research organization RTI in Research Triangle Park are funded by the EPA. RTI is hoping to do more cutting-edge research, but the EPA, likely in anticipation of Trump cuts, has already halted one research project.

Robin Smith, a former state assistant secretary of the environment, sees serious implications of EPA cuts. She says the federal government, through the EPA, pays for half of the state’s programs that have to do with permitting and enforcing clean air and clean water programs. Proposed cuts, she said, would take away more than $3 million from North Carolina’s environmental programs.

The EPA’s large presence in RTP also includes the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, with 300 employees. That agency designs air-quality standards for the entire United States.

The EPA is a good agency, and its regulations and actions to enforce them have doubtless prevented environmental disasters and will help to ensure clean air and water for generations. A Republican, President Nixon, created the EPA. Republicans should stop seeing environmental protection as some kind of partisan activity that pits economic progress against tree-huggers.

When it comes to protecting the environment, everyone is on the same side - or should be. A cleaner environment in good for all - including business.

And this is certain: The consequences of lax environmental regulation might not be felt for decades, until the grandchildren of these generations face the consequences, or they might be felt tomorrow, in pollution from hog farms after a torrential storm, or in an environmental accident at a nuclear power plant.

The EPA’s mission is noble. It is vital. It is life-saving. Diminishing it puts the country, and the world, at risk.

Online: https://www.newsobserver.com/

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June 25

StarNews of Wilmington on film incentives:

We wish North Carolina didn’t have to play the incentives game to lure businesses here. But as long as other states are playing, we can’t afford to be on the sidelines.

So we are pleased that the N.C. General Assembly’s proposed budget provides more than $30 million in film incentives for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Even better: It’s a recurring item, meaning production companies can count on it in future years.

Those are solid victories, and we can thank our local delegation for fighting for a clean industry with good-paying jobs.

But it wasn’t all we might have wished for.

Our area would have benefited from a more generous program and a return to the old tax-credit structure.

The more generous the program, the more likely it is to lure major film and TV projects.

In 2012, North Carolina awarded $80 million in tax credits for film productions, including $20 million for the blockbuster “Iron Man 3.”

The Fox TV series “Sleepy Hollow” filmed its first two seasons in Wilmington, but moved on to Georgia after North Carolina changed its incentives program.

TNT’s series “Good Behavior” is filming its second season in Wilmington, the only major-studio production in town.

Setting the level around $30 million - it’s $33.6 million this year, $31 million in future years - might support a more modest film industry. But it’s unlikely to attract big blockbusters like “Iron Man 3” or the “Hunger Games” movies, the first of which was filmed in western North Carolina before production moved to Georgia.

When the GOP-dominated General Assembly sharply scaled back the incentives, it also changed their structure. Production companies found the old tax credit program easier to use.

Lawmakers say the predictability of the new grant program makes budgeting easier. But the tax credits - whose levels weren’t capped - were only paid after money was spent in North Carolina, money that now goes elsewhere.

The HB2 controversy also may be affecting our film industry.

When the lawmakers enacted House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill” was seen nationally as discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Various film production companies expressed reluctance to bring business to North Carolina. The legislation that repealed it was not viewed as a complete repudiation of the sentiments that prompted its passage.

Many local film workers have moved to other states, following productions that are following the incentives.

We’re not big fans of incentives, but they are a fact of life. We can’t afford to sit out as other states use them to their advantage.

We’re rooting for the film industry and are happy to see a commitment to its future here. But we’d still like to see it improved in the sequels.

Online: https://www.starnewsonline.com/

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June 25

Winston-Salem Journal on compensation for participants in forced sterilization program:

For almost two years now, victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program who qualified for compensation have been waiting for their third and final payment. With almost all appeals exhausted, that time may rightly be here.

From the Great Depression through the fall of Nixon, the Eugenics Board of North Carolina, in one of the most aggressive programs in the country, rendered barren more than 7,600 men, women and children. The board, often acting on flimsy evidence, determined these people were mentally or physically deficient.

The 2002 Journal investigative series “Against Their Will” lifted the curtain on the brutal inner workings of the program. Former state Rep. Larry Womble of Winston-Salem long fought for compensation, as did the Journal editorial board. Victims who have suffered from mental and physical pain from their sterilizations told their stories on our opinion pages.

The state legislative approved compensation in 2013, the first in the nation to do so. Virginia followed suit, and other states are likely to compensate as well.

The North Carolina delay has been caused by appeals from heirs of victims who did not qualify for compensation. But Thursday, a key lawyer for those survivors, Elizabeth Haddix, told the Journal in an email that “Our clients have decided not to seek further review by the N.C. Supreme Court. Although the forced sterilization of their loved ones hurt them personally and impacted their lives forever, their goal has always been to honor their loved ones, whose most fundamental rights were violated by the state’s eugenics program. They have honored them with these appeals.”

The legislature should consider whether these heirs should be compensated. Heirs whose cases met a legal timeframe set up by the legislature are being compensated, as are living victims.

Now, the most important thing is for the state to get the qualified victims their final payment, which should bring their total compensation to more than $40,000 each. No amount of money can ever replace what the state, playing God, took. But money is one big way we admit wrongdoing and settle scores in this country. The final payment should go out soon.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com/

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