Jul 202013

Summer is almost always a pensive time.  There’s usually a Chandra Levy story, one that lights up the media footlights for weeks and then disappears when the Next Big Thing happens.

We don’t know yet what we don’t know.

Who could have imagined in the summer of 2001 when the Levy story was ubiquitous, that our country would be attacked in broad daylight by terrorists wielding box cutters and bringing down the Twin Towers?

We haven’t fully engaged into the next election cycle.  Fall 2014 seems a long way off.  A few Jeb Bush-Rand Paul-Chris Christie speculations flutter around like the feather at the end of Forrest Gump.  Hillary Clinton is here, there, and everywhere. Will she run?  Does she have a legacy problem?  What will Bill say next? Is 200K too much for a speaking engagement?

The District of Columbia vacillates between a rainy, flooded island and a steamy jungle with a humidity level just short of infinity.  Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid toss barbs back and forth like Midwesterners playing ring toss on a hot summer evening.  Food stamps?  What does that have to do with the Farm Bill?

While the old Foggy Bottom still generates the summertime blues, the real action in our country is not — this summer — at the federal level.  Did we imagine or did the lady atop the Capitol dome feign ennui and then roll her bronze-cast eyes at the inaction below?

Check out what’s happening at the state level.  If you haven’t been watching the “Moral Mondays” in North Carolina, you probably don’t know that North Carolina has gone from a red state to a state hotter than the crimson-hot intensity of the hottest summer sun recently.

The New York Times talked about “The Decline of North Carolina” in a July 11 opinion piece, noting what has happened since the Republicans have both legislative and executive control.  The people of North Carolina have indeed spoken.  Their voices were heard in the ballot box.  Is this what they wanted?

  • State lawmakers eliminated unemployment benefits for nearly 70,000 North Carolians last week by rejecting federal unemployment insurance extensions.  Fayobserver.com noted, “North Carolina on Sunday became the first state in the nation to disqualify itself from collecting extended unemployment benefits to help repay a debt to the federal government faster. About 70,000 people lost their benefits, with another 100,000 to be cut off in the coming months, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The maximum weekly benefit a laid off worker can receive was also slashed from $535 to $350.”
  • Other legislative movements since Republican Governor Pat McCrory took over in January include, according to the Times article  – cutting spending on public schools including teacher’s pay, repealing the Racial Justice Act of 2009 which allowed death-row inmates an opportunity to prove they were victims of discrimination.
  • On the table for discussion is removing extra pay for teachers with mater’s degrees, cutting teacher’s assistants, removing limits on class sizes, cutting income taxes for the rich and raising sales taxes on everyone, and new voter ID requirements as well as a cutback on early voting and Sunday voting opportunities.

North Carolina isn’t alone in its white-hot conservative movements at the state legislative level.

Colorado:  Ten counties in Colorado are pondering becoming the 51st state of Northern Colorado over disputes about oil revenues from these oil-producing counties.

Indiana: Hoosier conservatives continue to draw attention  like a magnet to a paperclip with renewed emphasis on upholding the State’s gay marriage ban.  A USA Today article noted July 9 noted that old legislation has become new again.

It was a story published last weekend by The Times of Northwest Indiana that apparently sparked attention from national blogs. The Times’ story noted that the laws were old, and it also included mention of a change in the penalty for one of them as part of the legislature’s overhaul of the entire criminal code this spring. (The legislature didn’t change the substance of the law, but it lessened the penalty.)

Sample headlines on blogs this week, however, present a different picture: “New Indiana Law Makes It A Felony For Same-Sex Couples To Apply For A Marriage License,” said The New Civil Rights Movement; “Indiana GOP passes law making it a crime for clergy to perform gay weddings,” said Americablog; and “Indiana Edits The First Amendment,” said an Esquire magazine blog. (The Esquire blog later posted a clarification of the timing issue.)

Can’t Leave Texas Out:  The Lone Star state legislature couldn’t get its work done during session, so Gov. Rick Perry added a thirty-day session at the end of the regular session.  Perry is intent on getting the Texas legislature to put up legislation that bans abortions past 20 weeks as well as place additional requirements on existing facilities that perform abortions.  The legislation also limits access to the morning-after pill.

Two weeks ago, Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis held the bill hostage with her unprecedented filibuster in the Texas State Senate.  While the filibuster held off passage, the vote was held Friday night and passed.  It now goes to Gov. Rick Perry who will sign it.

Will all these issues stand?  Is this what the people want?  It’s still a long, hot summer and another year until election 2014.

The people have spoken.

Published July 15, 2013 at The Broad Side.  Please comment there.

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