Happy Moogfest Friday, everyone! There’s a lot in the news this morning, so let’s jump right in.
1. We’ll begin with Congress, home to many a moron.
Yesterday Republicans in the House decided, in a very close vote that required a ton of arm-twisting, that it’s just hunky-dory for federal contractors to openly discriminate against LGBTQ folks
Democrats shouted “Shame! Shame!,” but seven Republicans switched their votes under pressure from House leaders Thursday and defeated a measure to protect gay rights.
“They literally snatched discrimination from the jaws of equality,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said.The final vote was 213-212 after the chaos on the House floor. That was enough to defeat an amendment by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., aimed at upholding an executive order that bars discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.
Maloney and other Democrats were incensed. “They literally snatched discrimination from the jaws of equality,” Maloney said.
He said he had approached Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as McCarthy worked on GOP colleagues to vote against the measure. McCarthy told Maloney to get back on his side of the aisle.
“I told him, ‘What side am I supposed to stand on in support of equality?'” said Maloney, New York’s first openly gay congressman. “It was disgraceful.”
And it was all symbolic: the Senate won’t pass it, and the president won’t sign it. So this was just some chest-thumping in the name of bigotry.
2. The legislature wants to put solar and wind farms out of business
Green energy advocates are aghast at the latest energy proposal in the state legislature to regulate wind farms and solar farms, a bill they say would turn North Carolina into the nation’s most hostile state for renewables.
The legislation, introduced last week by two Republican state senators, would impose a host of financial hurdles and safety precautions, in some instances stricter than North Carolina’s standards for coal-burning power plants and nuclear power plants.
One of the lawmakers who sponsored Senate Bill 843, Sen. Bill Cook of Beaufort County, said the more renewables projects proliferate, the more they prompt complaints about safety, appearance and adverse effects on property values that must be addressed in a comprehensive fashion.
Cook’s district includes Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, where a Spanish developer is building the Amazon Wind Farm, the state’s first large-scale wind project.
“Numerous constituents have contacted me throughout Northeastern North Carolina with their concerns pertinent (to) the potential negative impacts,” Cook said by email. “It is obvious, that many people (due to view, sound, flicker, etc.) would choose NOT to buy a home where there are industrial wind turbines close by.”
This is the same legislature, by the way, that has gleefully restricted local governments’ ability to limit fracking
, which is far, far more environmentally toxic
and thus—in the long run—detrimental to property values,. But yeah, sure guys, a bunch of solar panels is a bridge too far. It’s almost like these Jones Street morons were talking to the Northampton County morons who think a solar farm will drain the sun
3. Conservatives try to out-conservative each other.
There’s a pitched battle in the newly redrawn Second Congressional District
, which merged two districts that had Republican incumbents running for re-election. And so you have incumbent Renee Ellmers, whom the tea party crowd believes has gone mainstream; Greg Brannon, who unsuccessfully challenged Richard Burr in the GOP Senate primary earlier this year, on the grounds that Burr wasn’t conservative enough; and George Holding, a far-right lawmaker now trying to convince a new district of his far-right bona fides.
U.S. Reps. Renee Ellmers and George Holding tangled over their records during a spirited televised debate Thursday night, with Ellmers saying she wants an ethics investigation into Holding’s “lavish trips” that show that he craves taxpayer-funded luxuries.
Holding said he travels because he does not believe what the Obama administration says about America’s allies. He called Ellmers’ claims “Washington double-talk,” and an attempt to cover for her votes for “bad Obama deals.”
Holding used a debate question about immigration to highlight Ellmers’ vote against a bill amendment that prioritized for deportation people in the country illegally who are “sexual predators.”
Ellmers countered: “That amendment was completely meaningless, and you know it.”
Holding, Ellmers and Greg Brannon are competing in the Republican 2nd District primary race where two sitting congressmen of the same party are competing on June 7 to make the November ballot.
On a not-at-all-related note, Holding just proposed a bill that would strip IRS agents of guns and badges
A bill introduced Thursday by U.S. Rep. George Holding, R-Raleigh, would “take the guns and badges away from the IRS,” he said. Holding’s bill proposes reassigning the IRS’ criminal investigation agents to the U.S. Treasury.
4. Janet Cowell will sit on those corporate boards, will not apologize.
“These are the IRS agents that carry guns and badges, and they’re very skilled. . . . But the IRS itself is a failed bureaucracy,” Holding said in an interview with McClatchy on Tuesday.
Cowell, a two-term Democrat who is leaving after this term, has jumped on the high-paying boards of two major corporations that do business in the state. But she says there’s no need to worry about a conflict of interest.
In her first interview since she joined the boards of two publicly traded companies and set off a conflict-of-interest controversy, Cowell said she remains comfortable with her decision.
“I certainly understand that there’s differences of opinion ... but I feel confident about the decisions I’ve made and I feel confident in my ability to be treasurer,” she said. “There’s important work left to do. I plan to do that.”
Despite the uproar that has ensued, Cowell said she doesn’t regret accepting the corporate board seats.
“I’m used to scrutiny,” she said. “This isn’t my first rodeo. It’s not easy. It’s not necessarily fun. (But) I can feel confident that there is no conflict.”
Critics have complained that the optics of a public official who is sole fiduciary of the state’s $86.57 billion pension fund serving on corporate boards are terrible, and that the possibilities for conflicts of interest are significant. Earlier this week the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which has frequently been at odds with Cowell, called for her to either step down as treasurer or resign from the corporate boards.
But Cowell, 47, a Democrat who isn’t seeking re-election to a third term in November, says those fears are misplaced.
Both candidates vying to replace her—Democrat Dan Blue III and Republican Dale Folwell—have said they will not serve on any corporate boards if elected.
5. The legislature’s low-cost HBCU plan isn’t popular among UNC employees.
A UNC system faculty group has raised concerns about a Senate bill that would lower tuition at five campuses, saying that it would alter historically black universities and possibly cripple them financially.
In a letter sent to UNC system President Margaret Spellings and forwarded to key lawmakers, the UNC Faculty Assembly picked apart Senate Bill 873, legislation dubbed the “Access to Affordable College Education Act.” The bill calls for fixed tuition for a student’s four years of enrollment, reduced fees and tuition rates of $500 per semester at five campuses, including four that primarily serve black and Native American students.
The letter to Spellings analyzed the bill’s provisions and intent, concluding that it would hurt the campuses’ ability to provide high-quality education and “may require campus closures.”
“This legislation would essentially convert the minority campuses into inexpensive magnet schools for privileged and racial majority populations, with the net effect of displacing African American and Native American students, thereby fundamentally altering the traditional mission of the four named minority schools – Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Winston-Salem State University,” the faculty letter said.
That’s it for today. Have a terrific weekend, and we’ll be back with you Monday.