North Carolina editorial roundup


Associated Press

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Nov. 17

Charlotte Observer on North Carolina's abortion law deserving the same fate court gave Oklahoma's:

North Carolina lawmakers arrogantly turned a deaf ear this summer to thousands of women and others protesting abortion laws severely limiting access to clinics and invading women's privacy. Maybe the U.S. Supreme Court can get their attention.

Last week, the high court let stand a lower court's ruling in Oklahoma striking down a major abortion regulation in that state. The law is very similar to one North Carolina passed in 2011 and that a federal judge temporarily blocked soon after.

Both the Oklahoma and N.C. laws require women seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound. They also require that doctors show the ultrasound image to the patient and describe in detail what it shows. And, as in N.C., women could look away and not listen to the spiel but the doctor was required to give it.

Experts say last week's ruling and another pro-choice ruling a week earlier signal that high court justices are skeptical of state actions that severely limit access to a legal procedure, put an unfair burden on women and infringe on their rights.

The nine justices made no comment on their decisions, but we think they should be warnings to this state and others. Such laws are inappropriate and dangerous intrusions into the relationship between women and their physicians. They serve no useful purpose other than to shame the women and attempt to manipulate them into foregoing the procedure.

That was in essence what Center for Reproductive Rights Stephanie Toti told the high court justices in her brief: "This is no garden-variety 'informed consent' law. It compels women to undergo an invasive medical examination and listen to a state-scripted narrative even if they object." Added Nancy Northrup, president of the Center: "A woman's personal, private medical decisions should be made in consultation with the health care professionals she trusts, without interference from politicians who presume to know better."

This editorial board has said the same in reference to the N.C. law.



Nov. 18

Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer on tolls being a dead issue unless lawmakers act:

The money isn't there. You can scan the state budget all day long, but you won't find $4.5 billion in loose change for widening and improving 182 miles of Interstate 95 in North Carolina.

It's simple: There will be revenue increases or there will be no I-95 upgrade, with safety standards met, lanes added, high-speed interchanges built and bridges raised. If you're against all revenue increases, you're against the upgrade.

Some people take that exact position, arguing that I-95 isn't all that bad yet. They're entitled to that view - which, carried to its logical extreme, means no commitments need be made until the highway has become nearly impassable.

Highway engineers have a different view and are entitled to it as well. They say the interstate is already beyond its engineered life expectancy along the entire 182 miles and will deteriorate more rapidly as time goes on.

Some people would like to have the federal government pay for the upgrade through an increase in the motor fuels tax. But the upgrade isn't the responsibility of the Congress.

The upgrade requires a stable revenue stream. The state's gasoline tax is a dwindling source of revenue.

Some call for replacing the gas tax with a sales tax. This is possible, but it could not be a straightforward tradeoff. A devalued gas tax would have to be replaced with a stepped-up sales tax approved by our state's General Assembly. Can you see that happening?

That's everything that is on the table. All of it.

Department of Transportation planners say that fiscal reality is forcing them to put the user fee - tolls - back on the table. But they don't have the authority to do that, and the public can't even have a real-world discussion about adequate funds and what's achievable, unless the lawmakers put the user fee back in play.

Newcomers may need to be told that it was the lawmakers who voted to take the user fee off the table in the first place. And Gov. Pat McCrory signed it into law.

Everything that's on the table puts the burden on North Carolina taxpayers - and comes up short.

Only tolls would put the burden on those who use I-95, more than half of whom hail from out of state. But we're just spinning our wheels unless the legislature puts a user fee back on the table.



Nov. 15

News and Record, Greensboro, N.C., on no winners yet in education case:

When the N.C. Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge to the state's preschool program last week, Senate leader Phil Berger declared victory. He was wrong. There was no winner.

"Today's Supreme Court decision is a clear affirmation of the General Assembly's central role in shaping education policy — and the size and scope of North Carolina's pre-K program," Berger said in a press release. "The court's ruling ensures the pre-K program will move forward as the legislature intended — with eight out of 10 pre-K slots serving children who are financially 'at risk.'"

The statement is misleading. The court simply dismissed the case as moot because the legislature had already amended provisions that prompted the challenge in the first place. It did not relinquish the courts' role in making sure that North Carolina children have an opportunity to receive a sound, basic education. ...

The Leandro and Hoke County decisions set the "sound, basic education" standard. In the second landmark ruling, issued in 2004, the court said children should enter kindergarten prepared to learn. The state responded by creating prekindergarten programs for 4-year-olds who were deemed to be at high risk for failure. But it never provided enough resources to serve all eligible children.

When the legislature cut back even further in 2011, several local school systems went to court. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning found that the state had violated the Supreme Court's mandate. He was supported by the N.C. Court of Appeals.

In 2012, the legislature repealed its 2011 action and created more spaces for at-risk children, which meant the substance of the complaint had changed. So the Supreme Court declined to review a provision that was eliminated. The court did not endorse the state's pre-K program as it exists today. It did not consider that question.

Berger is right that the legislature has a central role in shaping education policy, but it also must comply with what the Supreme Court says are constitutional imperatives. The court has never said the legislature must operate pre-K programs. But, because the legislature has chosen pre-K programs as the means to prepare at-risk 4-year-olds for success in school, it must provide the same opportunities for all eligible children. It has not.

Until it does, there will be more legal challenges — and, as long as any children enter kindergarten prepared only to fail, there will be no winners.