Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C., on US government's move to stop NC voter suppression sad but necessary:
To the list of horribles delivered upon North Carolina's good name by this current crop of Republicans now can be added the humiliation of being sued by the federal government for curtailing the voting rights of blacks.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in announcing the lawsuit Monday, said he took the action "more in sorrow than in anger." And a sad occasion it was for a state justly proud of its progress in civil rights to be returned to the battlefield of federal enforcement and Southern state resistance. North Carolina has been taken there by the GOP leadership in the General Assembly and a Republican governor whose laws and policies are taking the state backward on many fronts, including taxation, education funding, abortion rights, environmental protection, health insurance for the working poor and support for the unemployed.
But this instance of rewinding history is particularly sensitive and damaging. Among North Carolina's greatest achievements stands the ability of its people and its government to rise beyond the prejudice of the Jim Crow era and the poll taxes and literacy tests that marked it.
After that period of voting restrictions, North Carolina developed a system that encouraged voting by all. It adopted early voting, same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-years-olds and did not require that voters present a photo ID. As a result, North Carolina rose from the bottom 12 states for voter turnout during all of the 20th century to 22nd in 2008 and 11th in 2012, a modern record high for North Carolina. ...
Blacks make up 22 percent of North Carolina's population, but in the 2012 election they accounted for 29 percent of those who voted early in-person and 34 percent of the same-day registrations by people voting for the first time in a county. And of the 318,600 registered voters who, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, do not appear to have North Carolina driver's licenses or DMV IDs, 34 percent are black. The changes in the voting law affect black voters to a disproportionate extent. That was the intent.
Now the U.S. Department of Justice has lent its power to complaints filed by others over this bald attempt at voter suppression. If they can win, so will North Carolina.
Rocky Mount (N.C.) Telegram on vaccine issue a reminder to all of us:
The Tdap vaccination plays an important role in the prevention of tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. It made headlines last week as more than 70 sixth-graders were suspended from Nash-Rocky Mount Schools because they had not received the vaccine, as required by state law.
Fortunately, the vast majority of those students have since complied. As of Monday, only eight students remained suspended.
The news is a mixed blessing of sorts - bad news for the students who were suspended, but a timely reminder to the rest of us of the importance of this vaccine, not only for sixth-graders but for other age groups, as well.
Vaccinations have all but eliminated tetanus and diphtheria in the United States. The last confirmed case of diptheria was detected in 2003. Physicians treat only about 30 to 50 cases of tetanus a year, nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But whooping cough remains a lethal threat, particularly to infants.
Vaccinating against these diseases isn't just a healthy prevention measure for sixth-graders - it can directly impact the people who come in contact with them.
Credit Nash-Rocky Mount Schools administrators for conducting a high-profile campaign in the fifth grade to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated before the start of the sixth-grade year. Those efforts contribute to a healthier classroom and raise awareness levels in the community, as well.
With that in mind, take a moment during your next physical to ask your physician if you're up to date on your own vaccinations.
After all, your health is just as important as that of a sixth-grader.
The Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times on legislative environment rankings are low for GOP:
Environment North Carolina's ranking of the 2013 General Assembly are out, and there are no surprises. Democrats passed and Republicans failed.
In fact, 32 of the 33 Republicans in the Senate voted wrong, in the environmental group's view, on all 13 votes surveyed. The 32 include Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine, Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville and Jim Davis of Franklin. Martin Nesbitt of Asheville was one of five Democrats earning a perfect score.
Twenty-four of the 120 representatives, all Republicans, were rated wrong on the nine votes considered, including Nathan Ramsey of Fairview, Michele Presnell of Burnsville and Roger West of Marble. Among the 22 Democrats with perfect scores were Susan Fisher of Asheville and Joe Sam Queen of Waynesville.
Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville was the highest ranking Republican in either chamber. He cast what Environment North Carolina rated as correct votes eight times out of nine. Tim Moffitt of Asheville cast such a vote only once in the eight issues on which he voted.
The Senate was singled out for special scorn. "This year, the Senate approved extreme measures to rush the state into fracking, do away with protections for our beaches, rivers and lakes, and dismantle our environmental commissions," said Elizabeth Ouzts, Environment North Carolina state director. ...
Perhaps the most onerous single measure was the omnibus regulatory reform act. This law, in the words of Environment North Carolina, "drastically limits local control over air and water protections, weakens protections for groundwater and begins the repeal of thousands of environmental regulations."
Among other things, the bill wipes out local living-wage laws, allows more trees to be cut in front of billboards and halts enforcement of groundwater standards until pollution leaves the polluter's property.
Legislators aren't the only ones in North Carolina government to demonstrate a cavalier attitude toward the environment. The Charlotte Observer takes the Department of Environmental Resources to task for refusing two federal grants totaling $582,305 to study streams and wetlands.
Without the federal money, monitoring will be done either by a DENR that has been drastically cut back or by the potential polluters. The Observer calls that "irresponsible." We agree.
Environment North Carolina praises those legislators who had perfect scores and asks others to follow their lead. "We're grateful for these champions," said Liz Kazal, a field associate. "But the fact is, the environmental zeroes far outnumber the heroes. .
It will be an uphill struggle. Recent developments show once again how U.S. conservatism has changed in recent decades. From Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, during whose administration many landmark environmental laws were enacted, conservatives were in the forefront of conservation. After all, the two words are related.
Today, however, to be a conservative, you apparently have to favor allowing industry to do as it wishes with the air and water. A strange turnaround, indeed.