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2021 Farm Act Eases Methane Biogas Permitting

The North Carolina Senate and House recently passed the Farm Act of 2021 (SB605) which contained a provision granting blanket permission for the state’s hog farmers to begin harvesting and selling methane gas (biogas) from hog waste lagoons. The individual process for doing this had already started, but the permitting process was slow.

All of this may sound familiar. Last year, judges with 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, affirmed a lower court ruling that holds Murphy-Brown, LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., liable for violating the right of neighbors of the former hog farm to enjoy their property. Jurors in that 2018 District Court case awarded each of the property owners $75,000 in compensatory damages and another $2.5 million collectively in punitive damages. Then Smithfield Foods announced it had resolved the remaining 20 to 25 separate lawsuits – there were 500 complaints in all, filed by North Carolinians, mostly people of color. Smithfield Foods is owned by Hong Kong-based WH Group Limited.

These cases brought to the forefront environmental justice matters in eastern North Carolina’s rural communities that have for years been fighting for the industrial hog farming industry to get away from the lagoon and sprayfield system. “We certainly hope that the pretty clear decision of the judges sends a message to the industry that they need to change their practices,” said Sherri-White-Williamson, the North Carolina Conservation Network’s environmental justice policy director. “Environmental justice is very much about not just black and brown communities, but low-income communities that have something in common- politically they are not powerful.”

After this stunning victory for the plaintiffs did Smithfield undertake efforts to process hog waste in ways that would protect the environment and neighboring communities? No! Instead, Smithfield Foods and Dominion Energy have deployed a full-court press on lawmakers and state regulators to build expansive new biogas systems, which would be located mostly in communities of color and low-income residents.

These biogas systems use covered waste lagoons to capture some of the farm’s methane. That gas is then used by utilities to burn for electricity. Significantly, the method for doing this still requires two sets of lagoons – one with a cover to collect the gas and one uncovered to collect the waste and spray on fields. So the lagoon and spraying remain in place.

We should urge Governor Cooper to veto the Farm Bill on the grounds that it does nothing to protect the environment and the community. It’s just another way to make money while selling the idea to the public that the company has found a new way to address problems with hog waste. Easing the permit system for Smithfield and Dominion should be rejected. Call Governor Cooper, @ 919-814-2000.

Source: NC Policy Watch special report: The great methane debate and what it could mean for North Carolina

House Passes 2021 Farm Bill


We all want businesses to open back up and for the economy to recover. Many businesses require essential workers to come back to work, yet complain about the labor shortage. The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2007, or in 14 years. Yet the living expenses keep growing. Try calculating how far you could get in a month on $7.25/hr. X 40 hours ($290, minus taxes).

The Raise the Wage Act would immediately boost consumer spending at all levels and put more money into the local economy. Higher wages would reduce employee turnover and hiring and training expenses, as well as increasing local tax revenues. Because corporations and other employers pay low wages, taxpayers end up subsidizing $153 billion annually for safety net programs. Fewer people would need to access these programs.

Increasing the minimum wage to $15./hr. would raise income for 17 million people, benefit 560,000 child care workers, and lift 900,000 out of poverty. Economic Policy Institute (epi.org) says that it “would lift pay for 32 million workers, or 21% of the U.S. workforce. A majority (59%) of workers whose total family income is below the poverty line would receive a pay increase. Nearly one-third (31%) of African Americans and one-quarter (26%) of Latinos would get a raise if the federal minimum wage were increased to $15.”

The Economic Policy Institute (epi.org) estimates that family income would increase by $5,100, giving them “extra resources that could help them to stop living from paycheck to paycheck, helping Black families the most.” $15./hr will reduce the gender and racial wage gap, especially for women and people of color, and help re-establish and strengthen the middle class.

The Raise the Wage Act would also phase out the abysmal wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at $2.13 since 1991 and end disgraceful subminimum wages ($3.34) for workers with disabilities employed in sheltered workshops and for workers under age 20. Increasing the minimum wage has also demonstrated improved infant health and reduced child abuse and teenage pregnancy.

Fight for $15 was launched by striking fast-food workers in 2012. Nine states (40% of the U.S. workforce) have raised their minimum wages to $15 an hour. Across the country, a single, childless adult needs at least $31,200 to have an adequate standard of living, more than twice what a full-time worker making $7.25 an hour earns annually, $15,080.

Please CALL your senators about the Raise the Wage Act, and VOTE to elect politicians who will pass this.

Sen. Richard Burr 202-224-3154

Sen. Thom Tillis 202-224-6342

The Raise the Wage Act, Explained | Indivisible

Zyaja Mattocks Speaks on Juneteenth and Growing Up Black

Zyaja Mattocks is a graduate of UNC Fayetteville in Psychology. She plans to continue onto medical school. Born and raised in Pamlico County her roots here are deep. She is a member of YNTO, Youth Navigating Towards Opportunity, a group that mentors Pamlico youth. As a part of YNTO, at their first annual Juneteenth Celebration last year, Zyaja gave a speech about the origins of Juneteenth. She is a dynamic speaker and has much to share. She will be speaking about Juneteenth and about her story as a young black woman understanding the past and its impact on the present. 

Listen to her speech here, delivered by Lakeesha Jones.

White Americans can handle truth about the nation’s history

By Rob Schofield – 6/1/2021 – in Top StoryWeekly BriefingPrint This Article

When Europeans first came to the Americas in the middle of the last millennium, scholars estimate that there were roughly 60 million indigenous people here. And while the actions and motivations of those who immigrated to this hemisphere obviously ran the gamut, there is simply no denying that the impact on the native population was catastrophic.

The arrival of Europeans led – both through the rapid spread of diseases like smallpox, measles and influenza, and by way of warfare, conquest and famine – to the extermination of as much as 90% of the Native American population (or around 10% of all humans then on Earth). The “Great Dying” was so massive that some scientists believe that the subsequent rapid decline in agricultural land use to which it led contributed to a temporary alteration in planetary temperatures.

This tragic story is far from the only one of its kind. Throughout human history, groups representing various races, religions, nations, and ideologies have subjugated and inflicted great harm on members of other groups – sometimes with a specific intention to do so and, at others, with only a vague grasp of the impacts of their actions.

Aboriginal people in Australia, native inhabitants of southern Africa, colonized inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, European Jews, the Irish, Armenians, the Tutsis of Rwanda, and the Muslim Uighur population of modern China are just a few of the groups on a very long list.

Of course, the hard truths in these episodes of oppression, and even genocide, are not usually in the history that gets reported by the oppressors or their descendants. The process of acknowledging and coming to terms with such painful truths is usually a fraught, gradual, and imperfect one.

Eighty years afterwards, modern Europe still struggles to come to terms with the horrors and implications of the Holocaust. In 2021, the government of China denies what it is currently and credibly accused of doing to millions of Uighurs.

Here in the U.S., it has taken many decades – indeed, centuries – for the tragic scope of what was done to Native Americans to slowly penetrate the consciousness of a population raised on cowboy movies and fanciful Thanksgiving stories.

And so it is, perhaps not surprisingly, that many modern Americans continue to struggle with one of the most horrific of all episodes of oppression in human history: the forced enslavement of millions of people of African descent by white Americans.

While no one denies the fact of slavery, millions still avert their eyes from its gruesome reality and, even more importantly, from its legacy.

This fact has been on painful display in recent weeks as many American conservatives have pursued an aggressive and concerted strategy to ban the teaching of “critical race theory.” As reporter Dan Vock explained in a Policy Watch story last week, the proponents of this argument believe that this heretofore rather obscure academic concept is part of a nefarious strategy to brainwash white American students into hating their country and seeing it (and themselves) as racist. Recent conservative attacks on journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and the 1619 Project are clearly a component of this campaign.

At least that’s the optimistic view of what’s been happening. A more cynical take – one that seems likely given the argument’s close association with that great manipulator of white fear and prejudice, Donald Trump – is that this new campaign has little to do with genuine belief and everything to do with an effort by a movement bereft of winning policy ideas to play its last political hole card: race-based fear.

Happily, whatever the motivations of the authors of this new and manufactured controversy – cynically manipulative, or merely sincere and confused – it is, like so many other attempts to deny history, doomed to failure for a simple and powerful reason: it’s not true.

Undertaking an honest and critical appraisal of American history – particularly the systematic racism that has long permeated nearly every aspect of society – doesn’t make the nation or its people weaker; it makes them stronger. Just as humans can love their parents and still recognize their blind spots and mistakes, modern Americans can celebrate the great insights of the nation’s founders and still acknowledge the dreadful injustices they abetted and perpetrated.

Just like modern Germans who work every day to confront and overcome the sins of the Nazis, American schoolkids can handle the truth.

And they can also handle the undeniable fact that the legacy of the nation’s original sins, didn’t end with the Civil War, or the demise of Jim Crow, or even with the Obama presidency.

In 2021, it is indisputably true that life in the United States, for all its many greatest-in-history attributes, remains inextricably intertwined with the original extermination of indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans and the systematic oppression of people of color that followed.

This fact doesn’t make every white American “guilty,” or a “racist,” but it should inspire all people of all colors to discard their rose-colored glasses, look honestly in the mirror, and think anew about why and how they should be working, quite intentionally, to build a better and fairer world for all.

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Rob SchofieldRob SchofieldDirector of NC Policy Watch, has three decades of experience as a lawyer, lobbyist, writer and commentator. At Policy Watch, Rob writes and edits daily online commentaries and handles numerous public speaking and electronic media appearances. He also delivers a radio commentary that’s broadcast weekdays on WRAL-FM and WCHL and hosts News and Views, a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.


America is Number 1. America has more guns than any other country, more than 300 million guns. That’s 120 for every 100 citizens, compared to Canada, the next closest, with 35 guns per 100 people. “We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them — and limit access to them — so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful, reducing the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 95 percent since 1921. Use a public health approach instead, using auto safety as a model—constant efforts to make the products safer and to limit access by people who are most likely to misuse them.”

What would a public health approach look like for guns if it were modeled after cars? It would include:

Enforce background checks; 22 percent of guns are obtained without one.

Keep men who are subject to domestic violence protection orders from having guns.

Ban people under 21 purchasing firearms (this is already the case in many states).Require safe storage practices: trigger locks as well as guns and ammunition stored separately, especially when children are in the house.

Enforce laws on straw purchases of weapons, and some limits on how many guns can be purchased in a month.

Experimentation with a one-time background check for anybody buying ammunition.

End immunity for firearm companies. That’s a subsidy to a particular industry.

Ban bump stocks, the kind used in Las Vegas to mimic automatic weapon fire.

Research ‘smart guns’, like those that fire only after a fingerprint or PIN is entered, or if used near a particular bracelet. This would also cut down on the 200,000 annual gun thefts.

Research gun buybacks

Support anti-gang initiatives, such as Cure Violence, that have a good record in reducing shootings. Source: Nicholas Kristof, NYT

One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a gun in the house was associated with an increased risk of a gun death, particularly by suicide but also by homicide. Fewer guns result in fewer deaths. If we can reduce gun deaths by 1/3, we could save almost 15,000 lives. We can do this. Let’s focus on how to make ourselves and our families safer and keep guns out of the wrong hands.

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We Should All Support Governor Cooper’s Plan to Expand Medicaid in North Carolina


When Medicaid was first enacted in 1965 under President Johnson, it provided health insurance to lower income people, their children, and people with certain disabilities. It is a means-tested program which places a ceiling on income eligibility tied to the federal poverty line. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010 under President Obama; it substantially expanded the Medicaid eligibility ceiling and coverage. It covers all citizens up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level including adults without children.

The ACA faced bitter opposition, especially from Republican elected officials. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the states were not required to follow this mandated expansion and could retain previous Medicaid coverage. Thus it was up to each state to decide whether to expand Medicaid coverage to the ACA mandated levels. As of this date, all but 12 states have done so. North Carolina has not. The Republican leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly has opposed this Medicaid expansion since 2013. So, the problem is, what to do about it.


In his latest budget proposal, Governor Roy Cooper has included his long-time priority, Medicaid expansion for 500,000 North Carolinians without health insurance. The stand-off over Medicaid expansion between Cooper and the Republican-led legislature led to Cooper vetoing the state budget in 2019. “Getting more health care coverage to people in North Carolina is certainly a priority,” he said. “Medicaid expansion is the best way to do that.” In the past year countless numbers of North Carolina workers have lost their jobs and their health care coverage. This makes the issue of expansion more urgent in that the probable number of people who would benefit has climbed.
And just in time, another landmark piece of legislation, the American Rescue Plan (ARP), just recently signed into law by President Biden, provides substantial incentives for holdout states to finally expand Medicaid which, for North Carolina would include these, among other, benefits:

After the enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act the government is now paying close to 74 percent of each Medicaid dollar spent in North Carolina. ARP would increase that even more by adding 5 percent. It is estimated that the boost to the bottom line would be about $1.7 billion while the cost to the state would be a 1/2 billion – a net gain of as much as $1.2 billion for the state.
Moreover, ARP would also provide extra coverage for new mothers for one year to fight pregnancy-related illness and deaths. Currently Medicaid only covers the first 60 days after birth.

We urge readers to contact the NC Senate President Phil Berger and the NC House Speaker Tim Moore and encourage them to work with Governor Cooper to expand Medicaid coverage.

REALITY‌ ‌CHECK‌: ‌ ‌Voter‌ ‌Suppression‌

By Diane Lemieux

How‌ ‌do‌ ‌the‌ ‌For‌ ‌the‌ ‌People‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.1/S.1)‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4)‌ ‌restore‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights?‌ ‌

H.R.1‌ ‌has‌ ‌already‌ ‌been‌ ‌passed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌House,‌ ‌and‌ ‌ ‌

●Guarantees‌ ‌Universal‌ ‌Vote‑By‑Mail‌ ‌

●Guarantees‌ ‌Automatic‌ ‌Voter‌ ‌Registration‌ ‌

●Makes‌ ‌absentee‌ ‌voting‌ ‌easier‌ ‌

●Restores‌ ‌the‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌

●Limits‌ ‌the‌ ‌influence‌ ‌of‌ ‌dark‌ ‌money‌ ‌in‌ ‌politics‌ ‌

●Stops‌ ‌partisan‌ ‌gerrymandering‌ ‌by‌ ‌requiring‌ ‌independent,‌ ‌balanced‌ ‌citizen‌ ‌redistricting‌ ‌commissions.‌ ‌

Maps‌ ‌would‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌approved‌ ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌portion‌ ‌of‌ ‌each‌ ‌party.‌ ‌The‌ ‌rules‌ ‌for‌ ‌drawing‌ ‌maps‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌across‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ ‌and‌ ‌would‌ ‌avoid‌ ‌the‌ ‌unnecessary‌ ‌division‌ ‌of‌ ‌communities,‌ ‌etc..‌ ‌Communities‌ ‌of‌ ‌color‌ ‌also‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌protected‌ ‌to‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌that‌ ‌their‌ ‌political‌ ‌power‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌undermined‌ ‌by‌ ‌map‌ ‌makers.‌ ‌Map‌ ‌drawers‌ ‌also‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌required‌ ‌to‌ ‌issue‌ ‌written‌ ‌reports‌ ‌evaluating‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌maps’‌ ‌compliance‌ ‌with‌ ‌these‌ ‌rules‌ ‌before‌ ‌any‌ ‌voting‌ ‌on‌ ‌maps‌ ‌could‌ ‌begin.‌ ‌Maps‌ ‌and‌ ‌data‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌posted‌ ‌for‌ ‌30‌ ‌days‌ ‌of‌ ‌public‌ ‌comment‌ ‌and‌ ‌map‌ ‌challenges‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌expedited.‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌Senate‌ ‌version,‌ ‌S.1,‌ ‌mirrors‌ ‌H.R.1‌ ‌and‌ ‌complies‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌Constitution’s‌ ‌requirement‌ ‌that‌ ‌it‌ ‌use‌ ‌its‌ ‌right,‌ ‌power‌ ‌and‌ ‌authority‌ ‌to‌ ‌set‌ ‌a‌ ‌national‌ ‌standard‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌“times,‌ ‌places,‌ ‌and‌ ‌manner”‌ ‌of‌ ‌federal‌ ‌elections.‌ ‌It‌ ‌would‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌access‌ ‌to‌ ‌vote‌ ‌by‌ ‌mail‌ ‌and‌ ‌early‌ ‌voting‌ ‌and‌ ‌restore‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rights‌ ‌to‌ ‌those‌ ‌returning‌ ‌from‌ ‌incarceration.

The‌ ‌good‌ ‌news‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌there‌ ‌are‌ ‌also‌ ‌843‌ ‌measures‌ ‌being‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌in‌ ‌47‌ ‌states‌ ‌to‌ ‌expand‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rights.‌ ‌ ‌S.1‌ ‌could‌ ‌bring‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌grinding‌ ‌halt‌ ‌the‌ ‌current‌ ‌voter‌ ‌suppression‌ ‌laws‌ ‌being‌ ‌proposed/passed.‌ ‌As‌ ‌of‌ ‌April‌ ‌1,‌ ‌361‌ ‌bills‌ ‌in‌ ‌47‌ ‌states‌ ‌call‌ ‌for‌ ‌voting‌ ‌restrictions.‌ ‌The‌ ‌bill‌ ‌passed‌ ‌in‌ ‌Georgia‌ ‌has‌ ‌received‌ ‌considerable‌ ‌pushback‌ ‌and‌ ‌is‌ ‌being‌ ‌called‌ ‌discriminatory‌ ‌by‌ ‌critics‌ ‌for‌ ‌its‌ ‌efforts‌ ‌to‌ ‌discount‌ ‌black‌ ‌and‌ ‌brown,‌ ‌young‌ ‌and‌ ‌poor‌ ‌voters.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Advancement‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4)‌ ‌returns‌ ‌the‌ ‌1965‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌to‌ ‌its‌ ‌full‌ ‌strength‌ ‌and‌ ‌even‌ ‌improves‌ ‌upon‌ ‌the‌ ‌1965‌ ‌law.‌ ‌The‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌of‌ ‌1965‌ ‌(VRA)‌ ‌was‌ ‌enacted‌ ‌to‌ ‌insure‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌15th‌ ‌Amendment‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌Constitution‌ ‌was‌ ‌enforced‌ ‌and‌ ‌that‌ ‌no‌ ‌official,‌ ‌whether‌ ‌in‌ ‌federal,‌ ‌state‌ ‌or‌ ‌local‌ ‌government‌ ‌may‌ ‌in‌ ‌any‌ ‌way‌ ‌impede‌ ‌people‌ ‌from‌ ‌registering‌ ‌to‌ ‌vote‌ ‌or‌ ‌voting‌ ‌because‌ ‌of‌ ‌their‌ ‌race‌ ‌or‌ ‌ethnicity.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌This‌ ‌act‌ ‌restores‌ ‌the‌ ‌requirement‌ ‌that‌ ‌certain‌ ‌states‌ ‌and‌ ‌localities‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌history‌ ‌of‌ ‌voting‌ ‌discrimination‌ ‌obtain‌ ‌prior‌ ‌federal‌ ‌approval‌ ‌—‌ ‌or‌ ‌“preclearance”‌ ‌—‌ ‌for‌ ‌both‌ ‌current‌ ‌and‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌changes‌ ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rules‌ ‌and‌ ‌practices‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌sure‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌are‌ ‌not‌ ‌discriminatory.‌ ‌ ‌

Call‌ ‌your‌ ‌senators‌ ‌today‌ ‌and‌ ‌tell‌ ‌them‌ ‌you‌ ‌support‌ ‌‌For‌ ‌the‌ ‌People‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.1/S.1)‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4).‌ ‌ ‌

Sen.‌ ‌Richard‌ ‌Burr‌202-224-3154‌ ‌

Sen.‌ ‌Thom‌ ‌Tillis‌202-224-6342‌ ‌

In North Carolina, we need to protect everyone’s freedom to vote

04.26.2021 / BY BOB PHILLIPS

RALEIGH – Voting is the right by which all our other rights are protected, to paraphrase Thomas Paine. Equal access to the ballot box is the bedrock foundation of our democracy and vital to the health of our nation.

It’s a simple, powerful concept – every American’s voice should be heard and their vote counted. Yet it’s been a struggle to achieve that vision, even now.

We know the shameful history of voter suppression that still reverberates today. We remember Black and Brown heroes who have courageously stood up against racist policies that withheld voting rights from people of color. We remember brave women who broke down barriers to the ballot. We recall the young people who advocated to lower the voting age, recognizing the injustice it was for 18-year-olds to fight for our country, but be deprived a say in our elections.

As more Americans have participated at the polls, our democracy has grown stronger. And the evidence is clear: when voting is made more accessible, more people participate. That benefits everyone. We saw that in 2020 when North Carolina had record high voter turnout, reaching 75%.

Our state’s historic climb in turnout is due in large part to important policies enacted in the early 2000s, like no-excuse absentee voting, expanded early voting and same-day voter registration. These pro-voter innovations survived attacks by partisan politicians in recent years thanks to North Carolinians standing together to defend broad access to the polls. As shown last fall, making voting more convenient has helped all voters – Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

Now, we’re at a crossroads. There are some politicians who want to take us backward, who want to impose unnecessary and discriminatory barriers that would undercut our freedom to vote, especially for Black and Brown voters and young people. We see that with the more than 250 anti-voter bills that have cropped up like weeds around the nation, including here in North Carolina.

At the same time, we have an opportunity to enact pro-democracy solutions that protect voting rights, encourage participation in elections and put people above politics.

That’s the choice: do we want to suppress voting, or do we want to promote voting?

The answer should be easy – we want to protect everyone’s freedom to vote. Any politician who feels differently, who wants to stop people from voting, should take a long look at themselves and ask why they dread being held accountable by the people they are supposed to serve.

Here’s some good news. The For the People Act has passed the U.S. House and awaits consideration by the U.S. Senate. This common-sense proposal would protect crucial election reforms like early voting, and it would implement proven, pro-voter policies such as automatic voter registration. We need Senators Tillis and Burr to step up for all North Carolinians and support the For the People Act.

In our state legislature, there have also been several pro-democracy bills introduced that deserve the support of lawmakers. The Fair Maps Act (House Bill 437) would end gerrymandering for good by establishing a citizens redistricting commission, making sure voters have a voice in choosing their representatives.

House Bill 446 (Safeguarding Voting Rights) would help voter registration, bolster early voting, improve accessibility for voting by mail and make Election Day a state holiday. House Bill 542 and Senate Bill 716 (Fix Our Democracy) would increase voting access, limit the influence of big money in politics and boost transparency in government. The legislature should pass these bills.

A year ago, North Carolina Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked together to enact legislation that made voting by mail more accessible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than imposing new barriers to casting a ballot, legislative leadership should build on the success of last year’s election and support pro-voting proposals.

We must not turn back the clock on voting rights. Instead, let’s move forward, ensuring that every voter is able to fully participate in our elections. And when more people participate, our democracy wins.

Bob Phillips is executive director of Common Cause NC, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.

Fighting for Black Lives After the Chauvin Trial

sheets with sign black lives matter on wall

Two weeks ago, when Derek Chauvin was convicted on three counts of murdering George Floyd, I was both surprised and grateful: Maybe we’d finally start holding police accountable for violence against Black people. But my momentary hope was tempered by my memories of similar hopes for tackling gun violence after Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Pulse, and Las Vegas. Almost two decades past Sandy Hook, there’s been little progress despite tremendous efforts by many people and organizations.

The Chauvin conviction was bracketed by the police shooting Adam Toledo in Chicago not a week earlier, by the police shooting Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, on the day of Chauvin’s conviction, and by the police shooting of Andrew Brown, Jr., right here in North Carolina. This is nothing new: Police violence against Blacks has been ongoing for centuries. Indeed, as the historian Jill Lepore explains in her article “The Invention of the Police” (The New Yorker, July 20, 2020 issue), police violence has been a constant of American life starting with enforcement of slavery, evolving to union busting, enforcement of Jim Crow, and controlling immigration. The history is long and sordid.

What makes Derek Chauvin’s case almost unique is that the overwhelming video evidence showing him murdering George Floyd came to light at the same time that the Black Lives Matters movement has made stark the depths of our national racism. Without the vivid video evidence, the heated political environment, and police chief Medaria Arradondo’s testimony against Chauvin, Floyd’s murder would likely have been swept under the rug like so many before it.

But in the Brown case in Elizabeth City, the only video evidence comes from police body and dash cams. So far, that evidence has been suppressed using the 2016 law signed by then-governor (and now Senate candidate Pat McCrory) that prohibits release of such video without a judge’s consent, which Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster has delayed for 30-45 days.

Sweeping police violence against Black people under the rug is the norm. Besides suppressing evidence, we’ve seen authorities and police union leaders around the nation sidestep accountability by blaming the victim and by blatantly lying. The Supreme Court’s doctrine of qualified immunity makes convictions, even with evidence, nearly impossible. Vivid, disturbing, in-your-face video footage seems to be the only game changer, much like television broadcasts of the 1965 Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge made the Voting Rights Act possible.

While video evidence of unjustified police violence against Black people will help in the fight to reform policing policy and accountability, I fear that this, too, like the fight to control guns, will be a decades-long fight. 

There’s no easy answer. The BLM movement is an essential part of the fight and we, as Progressives, support it wholeheartedly. We must also fight to change the national context. This fight is not just about police violence but about all of the forces in our society that keep people “in their places”, suppressing human dignity and economic opportunity with underfunded public education, sub-subsistence minimum wages, lack of affordable housing, healthcare and child care, and unjustified levels of incarceration.

Fighting these battles is what Progressives are all about. Please join us in the work.

Join/Donate Local: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/pamlico-progressives-democratic-caucus-1 

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Upcoming Virtual Events

Get together (virtually!), learn together, act together!

Register for the Zoom HERE

Featuring Kendra Davenport Cotton 

(Chief Operating Officer, New Georgia Project Action Fund)

In conversation with Diane Robertson 

(DNC Deputy Finance Chair and NC Democratic Party Executive Committee member) 

and introductions by Dr. Aimy Steele 

(2020 candidate for NC House District 82)  

Co-hosted by NoC and FLIP NC

After years of strategic, collaborative organizing, Georgia activists see their state turning blue. Let’s find out how they did it!

Kendra Davenport Cotton is an experienced campaigner and nonprofit leader in Georgia who also has a deep understanding of the North Carolina political landscape, having studied and worked here for 16 years. She will help us learn from Georgia’s path as we build our own grassroots strategy to elect Democrats. 

The New Georgia Project Action Fund is the advocacy arm of the New Georgia Project, which has registered over 500,000 voters. NGP was founded by Stacey Abrams and is led by Nsé Ufot.