Wake gerrymandering, weak fracking rules and the GOP trying to rebrand itself as the party that cares | Wake County | Indy Week
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Wake gerrymandering, weak fracking rules and the GOP trying to rebrand itself as the party that cares 

After clearing the Senate Redistricting Committee Tuesday, S181, which would split Wake County into two super-districts and place County Commissioners' elections into the same districts as the school board, passed the Senate on a 32-16 vote.

Wake County Sen. Josh Stein and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue urged the 45 other members of the Senate who do not represent Wake County to vote against the bill. Stein submitted an amendment that would have offered Wake County voters a referendum on redistricting for the county commissioners' seats. It was quickly tabled by Senate leadership.

"This bill will disenfranchise the people of Wake County," Stein said. "It insults the 1 million voters whose opinions are being ignored because you deny them an opportunity to weigh in with a referendum. It will result in worse, more divisive, more narrow-minded governance over time that is not in the best interest of our county."

Blue said the bill "does evil to Wake County and to North Carolina."

"It chips away at this fundamental idea of what representative democracy is," Blue said. "It is the choice of the people in whatever the political unit is, in this case, the people of Wake County."

Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca spoke in favor of the bill, which was sponsored by fellow GOP Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County.

"What we're really talking about here is rural versus city, and as we grow, we see what the cities do, they take over everything," said Apodaca, who represents three mountain counties. "We're talking about electing district representatives that serve that district. To me, there is no truer form of government."

WE LOVE THE SMELL OF FRACKING IN THE MORNING

Meanwhile, more disappointment reigned in the House, which voted on an amendment to the state's fracking rules. The amendment would prohibit the Environmental Management Commission from writing additional rules on TOXIC AIR EMISSIONS that result from fracking during drilling operations. Fracking can legally begin this week.

The fracking language was bundled into a larger package of changes to environmental laws that passed the Senate Monday night by a 39–10 vote.

House Bill 157 has been sent to Gov. McCrory for his signature.

Rep. Mike Hager, a former engineer for Duke Energy, said the amendment would save time by allowing drillers to follow existing air quality rules, which the EMC already has discretion to enforce.

Environmentalists say the amendment reneges on the state's promise in 2012 to have the nation's most stringent fracking rules. "The Legislature got it right the first time," said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, the communications director for the North Carolina Sierra Club. "It's surprising that exactly one week before fracking permits can be applied for in North Carolina for the first time ever, the Legislature would roll back requirements to protect air quality and the public health."

As of March 17, drilling can begin in North Carolina.

Paging George Orwell

The state's Republican Party will undergo an "issue research brand assessment program," in hopes of metastasizing to urban counties.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and NC GOP chairman Claude Pope—who is distantly related to Art Pope and is apparently resigning—have announced a collaboration to "grow" the Republican party.

Project Listen will be led by U.S. Rep George Holding of Wake County and Susan Tillis, the wife of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis to "provide feedback and tools we need to build bridges, form new partnerships and achieve common goals."

A report will be issued to the NC GOP Executive Committee by the end of the year.

Citing Wake and Mecklenburg counties' fast growth, "it is imperative that our team of candidates have a better understanding of issues impacting these voters and how to better communicate with them," an NC GOP press release states.

Translation from Orwellian: How do we talk to black people? How do we hoodwink Latinos into thinking we care about them?

"This gives the NC GOP a historic opportunity to also become one of the fastest-growing parties of the nation. To that end, we're announcing our efforts to have an open, frank and ongoing discussion with all North Carolinians—regardless of party or ideology—about the values and common ground we share."

Sen. Burr says the GOP is "not content to rest upon past victories" and the party "is ensuring continued growth and electoral success by better understanding the demographic forces shaping our state."

And lest you claim this effort is just "style over substance," or "a move to the middle," Pope personally ensures you that it is not.

"Let's be clear," Pope says. "We're unwavering in our core values and beliefs. What we seek is a better understanding of individuals and communities that share those beliefs but may not identify with our 'party brand.'"

This article appeared in print with the headline "Laugh to keep from crying"

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