Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The News & Observer of Raleigh on the upcoming special legislative session:
It's September, so round three of the 2011 General Assembly is about to begin. On Monday, Sept. 12, legislators will return to take up, mainly, possible amendments to the state constitution. If enough members of the House and Senate agree, those measures would be voted on in the 2012 general election.
What's on the likely docket? An amendment prohibiting state government from taking private property by eminent domain for economic development purposes, for one. ... Also, legislators may consider an amendment that would limit, in the constitution of all places, the terms of state House and Senate leaders.
The main attraction, however, is a proposed amendment — it's not certain what the text of it will say — forbidding gay marriage. No matter that North Carolina has a state law that's been 100 percent effective in doing just that.
Unveiling their plans the other day, leaders of the Republican-dominated Legislature said North Carolinians deserve a chance to vote on such a vital topic — would it have been a good thing if we'd voted on preserving racial segregation in 1960? — and that the rising tide of accommodation to gay marriage in other states (where, somehow, the sky has not fallen) means we must erect a constitutional barrier here. ...
Relatively new this year is the argument by Democratic leaders that an amendment that forbids gay marriage and even civil unions — which the Senate's version does — would discourage big corporations, which increasingly have accommodated themselves to domestic-partner benefits and the like, from locating in the state. Not to mention companies started or headed by gay businesspeople, who surely would feel a singular chill. ...
Because a three-fifths margin is needed in both the House and Senate, a handful of Democratic votes will be needed in the House, although not in the Senate, to advance the Republican-sponsored amendment. The week of Sept. 12 would be a fine time for House Democrats to show some of that same solidarity their GOP colleagues are known for. They should vote no, and they should be joined by some of the more libertarian-minded Republicans, who surely must have doubts about imposing the state constitution between two consenting unrelated adults who wish to commit to that most conservative of social institutions, marriage.
The Reflector of Greenville on disaster relief:
Social services offices in many eastern counties drew crowds as victims of Hurricane Irene jumped at the chance to apply for food stamps, temporary financial relief from the effects of a natural disaster. With many affected counties posting unemployment figures above 10 percent, savings are a thing of the past and this storm left area residents grasping for a lifeline.
Stories of such desperation failed to reach the nation's capital, as some Republican lawmakers threatened to withhold disaster funding without spending cuts to offset the expense. To play politics with people's suffering demonstrates a callous new low for the nation's elected leaders and amounts to a slap in the face to storm victims all along the East Coast.
It will take some time to total the cost of Hurricane Irene's destruction, but preliminary property damage in North Carolina has been estimated at $71 million. Many rural eastern counties suffered massive crop losses that North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler believes could reach hundreds of millions of dollars. Calculate lost productivity and inventory in addition to repair and there can be no doubt that Irene walloped the state financially.
Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Vermont were among the states with similar problems, though varying in degrees. For instance, Vermont endured historic flooding, a terrible disaster that requires years of rebuilding and cleanup, as residents of eastern North Carolina know. New Jersey's coastline took a beating on par with North Carolina, though some counties here find themselves in far worse shape. ...
In Washington, however, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican whose home district in Virginia was affected by Irene, claimed that any federal funds applied to disaster relief would need to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. In doing so, he threatened to spark a bitter partisan fight over whether to help storm victims, making the process of securing funding even more time consuming. ...
The simple fact is that such battles must be set aside with so many Americans hurting. Washington should be the last resort for seeking recovery funds, but with many states already strapped for cash, the federal government must step up. Now is the time to deliver.
Winston-Salem Journal on state alcohol sales:
Legislators should not change state law to fix a minor inconvenience to a small number of people. But that is exactly what both chambers did during the 2011 session.
Both houses passed a bill allowing earlier alcohol sales, but the two chambers had differences, so the bill is sitting in a conference committee, where it will be eligible for consideration when the General Assembly reconvenes.
That's exactly where it should stay. This bill should die.
As it stands now, House Bill 796 would allow off-premises sales of alcohol as early as 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The law now opens sales at 7 a.m. The bill also allows Sunday sales at 11 a.m. rather than the current time, noon. Both houses agree on those provisions of the bill; they disagree elsewhere.
The bill's impetus comes from two rather minor considerations. Charter-boat owners would like to stock their boats with beer before they leave the dock, and they often leave well before 7 a.m. There are also football fans who'd like to buy alcohol an hour earlier on Sunday.
While we can sympathize with these wishes, we don't see them as worthy of changing state law, especially when we don't know the wider ramifications of the changes.
In both cases, customers can adjust. Fishermen can buy their beer the night before and store it in coolers. Football fans can do the same for their tailgating parties.
Neither will be greatly inconvenienced, but if the bill were to pass without sufficient study there is no telling what ripples it would create statewide. Should stores be selling beer at 5 a.m. statewide, creating ramifications we can only imagine, just so a few fishermen don't have to plan ahead? We don't think so.
Religious leaders have a legitimate argument against the Sunday sales. It was only a few years ago that Sunday sales were moved from 1 p.m. to noon to accommodate the Panthers. That really didn't hurt religious sensibilities because most services are done by noon. But at 11, many are still in progress.
This bill should die. If legislators want to discuss it again in 2013, bringing with them more evidence of its need, then that would be the appropriate time to consider it.