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North Carolina editorial roundup

August 28, 2019

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Aug. 27

The Greensboro News & Record on the cost of the continued stalemate between lawmakers over North Carolina’s budget:

This is your state government at work.

And we use the term loosely.

The legislature should have adjourned weeks ago, after, of course, passing a new budget. But instead, day after day, they are running up bills.

And guess who’s paying the freight.

On June 28, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the budget the Republican-controlled House and Senate had agreed upon in conference. Cooper disagreed with several parts of the budget.

At the top of the list was the Republicans’ refusal to agree to the governor’s plans to expand Medicaid. More money for public schools is also one of his priorities.

Cooper wants to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of low-income people who don’t have medical insurance, and he wants to take bigger steps to improve public education.

On July 9, the governor came up with his compromise budget proposal, still calling for Medicaid expansion. But Republicans have stood fast against expansion, for reasons that are, to be kind, unclear.

How do you say yes to corporate tax cuts but no to relief for more than half-a-million North Carolinians who lack health coverage?

But that’s where we are ... for who knows how long.

Instead, the Republicans are just extending the legislative session endlessly, hoping that one of these days, there will be enough votes to override Cooper’s veto. But the Republicans lost their veto-proof supermajority in the most recent election, so they are having trouble getting the necessary votes.

Day after day, a vote on the override is rolled over on the House’s legislative calendar to the next daily session as “unfinished business.” And day after day, no vote takes place.

It’s something of a game of chicken, with Republicans betting that enough Democrats will blink as the stalemate continues. Or musical chairs, with Republicans hoping that enough frustrated Democrats will be absent one day so that the override will pass.

While the GOP lawmakers play, the Senate has started working on bits and pieces of “mini budgets,” pulling out various parts of the larger proposed budget. The idea is to pass various items without having to deal with the Medicaid issue, or at least force Cooper to veto those individual measures.

Fortunately, the state doesn’t operate like the federal government, and there won’t be a government shutdown even though North Carolina has been without a budget since the end of June. The state just keeps on going at last year’s spending levels.

But all this wasted time in Raleigh doesn’t come cheaply. As long as the legislature is in session, it’s costing taxpayers an estimated $42,000 each day. In addition to their annual salary, each member of the General Assembly gets an automatic daily stipend — per diem — of $104, seven days a week, no matter how many days legislators actually do any work or how many nights they actually spend in Raleigh. They all also get mileage reimbursements enough to cover one round trip home each week.

Other costs of keeping the legislature in session include money for operating expenses, salaries, supplies and everything else needed to keep the building fully functioning.

So the games go on and the tab keeps on mounting — at your expense.

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

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Aug. 27

The Fayetteville Observer on an event which promoted breastfeeding, particularly for African American mothers:

The numbers tell the story, and they raise an alarm within the African-American community, and the community at large.

Health professionals agree that the benefits of breastfeeding infants has significant positive health effects. But black women have both the lowest rates of starting breastfeeding and continuing breastfeeding, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control. Just over 64 percent of black women initiated breastfeeding between 2011 to 2015, the CDC notes, which compared to nearly 82 percent for both white and Hispanic women.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, and breastfeeding alternated with complimentary foods up until at least 12 months. But the academy in 2017 reported that “a significant difference of at least 10 percentage points in exclusive breastfeeding through 6 months was found between black and white infants in 12 states, and at 12 months of breastfeeding in 22 states.” Many of the states where the racial disparity is the greatest is concentrated in the South.

That’s why we were heartened to see local organizers participate on Monday in an event at the Headquarters Library that marked Black Breastfeeding Week, which is part of National Breastfeeding Month. The local event appeared to draw its target audience; it was attended by plenty of expectant mothers and mothers with young children. Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin read out a proclamation declaring Fayetteville a Breastfeeding Friendly City.

Angela Tatum-Malloy, of the Fayetteville Breastfeeding Center, told the assembled that August is the “Super bowl of breastfeeding,” because of all the related events, worldwide, that put the focus on the benefits of breastfeeding and how to help mothers who wish to do so.

She talked specifically about the racial disparities affecting African-American mothers when it comes to breastfeeding.

“The push-back that I hear the most is mothers feel like there are barriers in their lives that keep them from breastfeeding,” she said. “There are things they don’t understand, which causes them to have a disconnect from breastfeeding. With Black Breastfeeding Week, we like to focus on getting those answers to mothers.”

Breastfeeding protects against allergies and infections; provides nutrition; and reduces the risk of disease, according to research. In some places, the infant mortality of African-American babies is twice that of white infants.

Tatum-Malloy said Monday that breastfeeding boosts a baby’s immune system. She told the mothers they have options - including pumping milk.

In addition to information sessions, Tatum-Malloy fits into the conversation on breastfeeding in another important way: the Fayetteville Breastfeeding Center she directs at 100 Hay St., is a clinic that offers lactation consultations, education and research, as well as provider training workshops. It is the first free-standing lactation clinic in the state, Tatum-Malloy says.

The clinic’s services are all part of a goal - what should in fact be everyone’s goal - of building healthy families, or as the mayor put it on Monday, “sustaining healthy lifestyles.”

And those aspects we believe are building blocks for a healthy, more vibrant community and country.

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

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Aug. 26

The Winston-Salem Journal on North Carolina’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases:

North Carolina is doing its part to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change — and respiratory problems, among other ill effects of pollution — thanks to a plan proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to increase the electricity produced from renewable energy sources. The governor’s commitment and leadership in this area are to be commended, as are the efforts of the professionals at the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The plan is now open for public review and comment through Sept. 9.

The plan proposes reducing greenhouse gases from electricity production by 60% to 70% of 2005 levels by 2030; 50% by 2025; with a goal of getting to zero emissions by 2050, according to DEQ.

“We need to reduce emissions by two-thirds by 2030 and to get to zero by 2050,” Will Scott, the energy policy analyst with the NC Conservation Network, said. “An increasing number of states are moving in that direction.

“To remain competitive in the clean energy economy, North Carolina is going to have to have similarly ambitious goals. It’s about competition and opening up the energy marketplace.”

This is the proper direction for a thriving and healthy energy future and it follows up on significant progress made by the state. Greenhouse gas emissions are already 34% lower than 2005 levels, according to DEQ.

The plan would likely require retiring coal power plants and turning utilities more toward solar and wind energy production. It also suggests setting carbon dioxide budgets or carbon caps. These are strategies that have exhibited high degrees of success in other parts of the world and are becoming more mainstream all the time.

Local efforts are essential, especially since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gases on the world stage.

Cooper is one of 25 governors who have stepped up in Trump’s absence, signing on to the U.S. Climate Alliance and committing North Carolina to the goal of reducing greenhouse gases and supporting clean energy. An executive order signed by Cooper last year required the DEQ to devise the plan.

“Duke Energy has significantly reduced carbon emissions by retiring coal and adding more renewables and cleaner natural gas,” Stephen De May, the N.C. president of Duke Energy, said in a statement. “We are transitioning our system to even cleaner energy, while upholding our responsibility to provide reliable, affordable power to customers. We look forward to continued dialogue with diverse stakeholders to achieve the critical energy policy objectives for the state of North Carolina.”

North Carolina may be doing its part, but it’s not enough to fix everything that’s wrong. Other areas of the country are getting worse, and our atmosphere doesn’t respect state borders. Maybe when they see the benefits here, they’ll wise up.

Some bristle at the idea of investing in clean energy, and in the past have noted its technological limitations (though the sun going down at night, and contracting cancer from windmills, are not among them).

Coal and gas seem reliable and are relatively cheap. But with investment and American ingenuity, clean energy technology has constantly improved and prices continually dropped.

On the other hand, dirty energy — coal and oil — have required more and more government intervention, in the form of subsidies and job protections, to survive.

Given the choice between sources of energy that pollute our air and water — which are risks to public health — and sources that produce limitless clean energy, especially at comparable prices, it’s difficult to see why anyone would choose pollution.

Careful planning now, based on sound science and firm commitment, will help preserve a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

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

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