"We are allowing two people who love each other to have that recognized, and I can't see what's wrong with that for love nor money, sir. I cannot. I cannot understand why someone would be opposed. I understand why people don't like what others do. That's fine. We're all in that category. But I give a promise to those people who are opposed to this bill, right now. I give you a watertight, guaranteed promise. The sun will still rise tomorrow. Your teenage daughter will still argue back with you as if she knows everything. Your mortgage will not grow. You will not have skin diseases or rashes, or toads in your beard, sir. The world will just carry on."
The vote went 77 to 44. The MP in the rainbow coat is the bill's sponsor, the Honorable Louisa Wall. Opponents of the new law, perhaps predictably, are calling for a referendum. But on a day when our own Congress seems so unable to move forward, Williamson's speech is just so tonic. (Thanks for sending this, Jo.)
UPDATE: @ChrisBoese writes that after the vote, the New Zealand parliament and the crowd broke into song. They're singing a Maori love song, "Pokarekare Ana." If you can imagine the U.S. Congress doing this, I wonder what they would sing.
Last week the North Carolina legislature held a hearing on a new bill to require photo ID in order to vote. So many speakers turned out with prepared scripts about stories of voter fraud -- prepared by a Tea Party voter-challenge group -- that the local pressmentioned it as part of the coverage. At least one of the speakers, the woman on the right, mentioned it as part of her testimony. She told lawmakers:
"And I have of course here another one of these things from the Voter Integrity people who have done a magnificent job in their research."
Or maybe not. Over the weekend the group, the Voter Integrity Project, posted a note saying that it might have made mistakes in those scripts, but please make voting harder anyway. The statement in full:
Late this afternoon, we learned that some of our findings, revealed at the April 10 public Legislative hearing, may be inaccurate; so we plan to issue a full report after completing an audit. While we regret this human error and apologize for any embarrassment it may have caused to the presenters and to election officials, we caution the public against losing sight of the undeniable fact that North Carolina’s voter rolls are so corrupted that, without an effective voter ID law, it will be impossible to know who is really voting. Keeping that in mind, we look forward to constructive engagement with any stakeholders who support open and honest elections in our state.
Among the anecdotes prepared by the Voter Integrity Project were stories of noncitizens who were allowed to vote. You might remember our story about the Voter Integrity Project from last year, when the group challenged thousands of voter registrations just weeks before the election. The Voter Integrity Project challenged some registrations by saying the person was dead, even though the person was alive.
We also reported (video) that the Voter Integrity Project told the public it was a nonprofit, though in fact it was registered with the state as a business. The difference matters because by law, nonprofits must disclose their tax returns, giving the public a window into what they're up to. As a for-profit business, even with no profits, the Voter Integrity Project is asserting itself in the public sphere with no way for the public to know who is behind it or on what scale it is operating or who is responsible for the possibly inaccurate testimony given to North Carolina lawmakers last week.
As for the extent or nature of the possible findings last week, we've got a message in to the Voter Integrity Project. If we hear back, we'll let you know. You can watch video of the hearings yourself, courtesy of the indispensable @NC Capitol desk from WRAL.
The testimony quoted above is at about 32:00 here. The hearing begins with this reel. If you notice anything of particular interest, please mention it in the comments with the time it occurs. And thank you.
The poll-watchingTea Partygroup known as True the Vote opens another national summit today, with top elections officials from two states among the listed speakers. Announced by email yesterday from True the Vote, one of them is the Republican Secretary of State from Kansas, Kris Kobach, last seen considering taking Barack Obama off the ballot in this state. The other is the Republican Secretary of State from Colorado, Scott Gessler, last seen trying to purge voters from the rolls two weeks before the November election.
Back home in Colorado, Gessler has sounded a little frustrated lately. Colorado's legislature has flipped from Republican to Democratic control, and the new majority wants to make voting easier. Colorado's county clerks, while not unanimously in favor of the changes, generally like them. From the Cortez Journal:
La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Lee Parker, a Republican, supports the bill and says it’s not a partisan issue.
"To me, this is really bipartisan. This makes sense. This is not Republican versus Democrat," Parker said.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Gessler is having a fit over the changes. He says the Democrats are "crazy" and guilty of "piss-poor thinking." And he says they're "trying to change the rules of the game in a very one-sided direction." That might be because making it harder to vote has generally helped Republicans, and making it easier has generally helped Democrats.
Democrats want to encourage mail-in voting by sending every voter a ballot, and they want to allow for same-day registration. The legislation, House Bill 1303 (pdf), comes up for its first hearing on Monday.
The last time North Carolina Republican Robert Brawley served in the state House, lawmakers could accept gifts from lobbyists. That was in the 1980s and '90s. Years later, after a scandal in their own party, North Carolina Democrats passed a ban on lobbyist gifts. Now Representative Brawley is back, his Republican Party is in charge, and he'd like the gifts again, please. WRAL notes:
He's currently a member of House leadership, serving as chairman of the Finance committee, an influential post that would almost certainly attract lobbyists' interest.
Brawley did not immediately respond to requests for an explanation of his proposal.*
Yesterday North Carolina citizens got a chance to visit their Capitol and make their opinions heard. The Raleigh News and Observer reports that House Speaker Thom Tillis slipped out rather than talk to the state NAACP leader, the Reverend William Barber. It's hard to know what to make of the video posted by the NAACP, except to say that the outnumbered liberals of the state do not seem to be giving up.
The sponsor of the iced bill to give North Carolina an official state religion got asked, over email, if she'd be OK with opening a legislative session with an Islamic prayer. She responded:
"No, I do not condone terrorism."
ADDING: Brawley tells WRAL that the reason he wants to do away with the ban on lobbyist gifts is that the ban and ethics laws in general just get in the way. "What makes you think a person without ethics is going to obey a law anyway?" he said.
From WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina, this report on debate for a bill to require welfare applicants to pass a drug test:
Tempers flared after Bill Rowe with the N.C. Justice Center told lawmakers similar legislation in Florida and Michigan has been struck down by courts as unconstitutional.
"Our Fourth Amendment doesn't allow suspicion-less testing of people," Rowe said. "There's no decision that says this is OK."
Rowe also cited studies that show drug use is no more common among TANF recipients than in the general public.
Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, argued with Rowe.
"You're OK with (drug users) getting federal dollars if they've had a doobie and get the munchies and need more food stamps?" Tucker asked. "Sit down."
The Senate committee voted to advance the bill. The plan is for welfare applicants in North Carolina to foot the $100 or more for the testing upfront, then get reimbursed if they passed. WRAL says no one could say where the money for reimbursements would come from.
Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the states of New York, Colorado, Connecticut and Maryland have passed laws designed to prevent gun violence. This week the Maine legislature takes up a couple dozen gun bills. One bill would ban carrying weapons "in a public place in a manner that causes a reasonable person to suffer intimidation or alarm." Back in December, a guy wore his assault rifle as he walked through Portland, Maine, to mail a letter.
With gun reform starting to look possible in more places, Maine lawmakers will also debating a few bills that drive the other way. One would make it difficult for local governments to destroy firearms and ammunition obtained through gun buybacks, even when the person turning in the gun wants it destroyed. A second bill would have Maine join the list of states nullifying federal control by exempting firearms and ammunition in the state from federal laws.
Maine politics are kind of a mess right now. In November, Democrats regained control of the legislature. Since then Republican Governor Paul LePage has mostly refused to meet with the new majority or to sign anything the legislature passes.
North Carolina will not, after, establish an official state religion or declare the state immune from the First Amendment, now that the state's Republican House speaker has decided to let that one go. On that other stuff, like taxing families if the kids register to vote at college, North Carolina Republicans are going for it.
Yesterday we heard from a raft of blue dots in the red sea of North Carolina, most of them wondering what in the world has happened to their state.
@tradebait: "I live in North Carolina. The state is now a great big tea party experiment."
@swerver: "yeah, I'm in Raleigh. Traditionally NC kinda maintained their progressive leanings while other southern red states did not. But all that has changed now. We have disappeared down the rabbit hole."
@mlenox: "I wonder how this would work for me...my parents live in NC, but I go to college in NY. Still, I've about given up on defending my home state to people. Clearly we're not all crazy, but it seems the small portion of us that have maintained our sanity are starting to get out QUICK."
@KtWard: "This is frustrating news, to be sure, but I'm not even remotely surprised by it. . . . Obama's 2012 loss in NC -- despite the DNC's best efforts to exploit his '08 win by hosting their convention in Charlotte -- also came as no surprise to me. NC has a Blue pocket or two, but all in all the state is every bit as Red as the rest of the deep south. I'm sure the folks in Asheville will have a thing or two to say, but otherwise this will go largely unnoticed."
@Russ_Haddad: "As a constituent of Sen. Bill Cook's in rural northeast North Carolina, I am appalled by the moves made by him and his cronies that are making the Tar Heel state regressive rather than progressive. He is a buffoon, but this is what the voters wanted. Unfortunately, by the time they realize their mistakes it will take decades to fix what they leave behind."
(Image: @taberandrew/Flickr/Creative Commons. Video below: North Carolina Republicans want tax hike for student voting.)
After seeing last night's A block (video) about opponents of gun reform displaying guns to intimidate the other side, Donna sends these pics from Columbus, Ohio. She writes:
I took my 9 year old neighbor to a "Demand a Plan" at the City Hall here in Columbus, OH on February 23, 2013. When I arrived, I noticed a man carrying a flag while walking up and down the sidewalk beside the area where the rally was being held. It was not until about half way through that I noticed that the man had a gun slung across his shoulder. Then I looked at a group of men standing on the sidewalk by the rally and saw that they too had guns visibly displayed on them. After seeing your program about another gun safety rally with armed men roaming around, I thought I would send you these three photos. This display of force is not an isolated incidence.
In November, Republicans won complete control of government in North Carolina. They have the governorship, veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers and control of the elected Supreme Court. Now North Carolina Republicans have set about the business of using their new majority to maintain their majority.
Using means now familiar in other states, North Carolina Republicans are proposing several ways of making it harder to vote. But one of the tactics is new to me. Republican State Senator Bill Cook wants to make voting harder for college students in particular, and to do that, he's pushing a bill that ties students' voter registration to their parents' taxes. If the student registers to vote at their college address, the parents would get a tax hike. They could no longer claim the student as a dependent, so the family would pay more in taxes.
The local offshoot of the Tea Party poll-watch group True the Vote sounds excited about the prospects. The Beaufort Observer quotes this statement from the *Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina:
We've gotten a bill into the Senate that Progressives are going to hate almost more than they hate Voter ID.
If other states pick up this legislation, it will shift the landscape of college town voting all across the nation and may even put "college states" like Massachusetts back into play because so many students use the same-day registration rules to vote in that state.
Here's the thing: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled back in 1979 that college students have the right to register and vote where they go to school. What North Carolina Republicans are proposing to do, then, essentially requires a student's parents to pay more if the student exercises that right.
For now, North Carolina Republicans are going for it. Cook sent around a statement saying that his proposals will be appreciated by anyone who considers voting "a sacred duty." Also, he says, the new restrictions will save money. In addition to making families pay more if their students vote at school, Cook and his Republican colleagues want to cut early voting nearly in half and reduce the number of places for early voting to one, which is a recipe for longer lines. They want to eliminate all voting on Sundays, and no longer allow you to both register and vote on Election Day. They also want to require new ID you never had to show before and that thousands of people do not have (the former Democratic governor vetoed the proposal in 2011).
But in Arizona, where Republicans have full control of the legislature, the push is going the other way. In bright-red Arizona, Republicans have been working on a bill (pdf) that would ban police from destroying the guns turned in during gun buybacks, even when the owners ask that the weapons be destroyed. Instead, they'd have to sell the guns, putting them back into circulation and thus defeating the purpose of a buyback.
With no ability to stop the law from going forward, the Democratic minority this week tried attaching 18 different amendments -- putting their colleagues across the aisle on the record over measures like universal background checks and a ban on armor-piercing bullets. From the Casa Grande Dispatch:
At one point, after Republicans rejected the ban on high-capacity magazines, a tearful Sen. Linda Lopez addressed the Senate about the mass shooting in Tucson two years ago.
"In less than 20 seconds, the shooter with a high-capacity magazine with 30 shots killed 6 and wounded 13, including my good friend Gabrielle Giffords," Lopez said. "How long does this have to go on?"
Among the amendments offered by Senator Lopez was one that would have given Arizona towns and cities the authority to decide how best to get rid of guns. Like the other 17, that move for greater home rule was rejected. The anti-buyback bill now needs one more vote in the Senate. (H/t Blog for Arizona)
Remember when: After the Tucson shooting, Arizona Republicans moved for looser guns laws.
Legislative leaders in Connecticut yesterday announced that they had reached a bipartisan agreement on gun reform. The package includes universal background checks for buying guns and a ban on using high-capacity magazines outside of your home or a licensed shooting range. Connecticut State Senate President Donald Williams told us last night that even though his Democratic majority could push through legislation on party lines, they wanted to work with Republicans to get consensus. "If we can do it in Connecticut, this ought to move across the country, and they ought to hear that loud and clear in Washington, D.C.," Williams said.
Now comes the question of whether Connecticut's approach will engender the same level of backlash now happening inColorado and New York, the first states to put new restrictions on guns after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School -- and the follow-up question of whether any backlash carries real political consequences.
In New York the uproar has taken the form of Upstate counties, far more rural than the counties in and around New York City, passing symbolic resolutions that call for repealing or amending the gun reform law. Those votes continue, with Tompkins County, in blue on the map below, possibly taking one tonight. Tompkins County has a population of 101,564, the size of a single Brooklyn neighborhood. Lacking in numbers, opponents of the law are making as much racket about it as they can. The Republican minority in the New York State Assembly, for example, posted this clip of Representative Bill Nojay pledging last week that Upstaters will not enforce the law:
Notice that Nojay defines the issues in clear geographic terms, and not in terms of party:
Let me state what the reaction has been to this act once the people north of the Bronx, and with the exception of the People's Republic and certain other little hotspots of Upstate, the rest of us have demanded that our elected county clerks will not administer this law. Our sheriffs, elected by the people, will not enforce this law. Our juries, who are the people, will not convict under this law. And our citizens, being free citizens and not subjects, will not obey this law.
New York's legislation may have moved through in a hurry -- that's how power moves here, at all once -- and it may have come up for revision, but it moved with support from several Senate Republicans, many of them from Downstate.
The New York law has remained broadly popular: A poll last month found 61 percent of New York residents say they support it, but that includes just 43 percent of New Yorkers who live Upstate. The map below, by a website opposing the law, gives you a good sense of where counties have come out against the New York measure.
I've been thinking a lot about the phenomenon of what you folks first started calling Blue Dots, progressives living in conservative states. The other day, Rachel pointed out that Red Dots in blue states are generally more like Red Swathes, since progressives tend to clump together in cities, while conservatives tend to dominate wide tracts with far fewer people. That is what we see now in New York, a blue state with a lot of angry rural counties. (In the map below, red is where more people are.)
Census Bureau map by way of the Albany Times-Union