Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
Winston-Salem Journal on clean energy:
Republicans won the governor's office and the legislature in 2012 on a promise of creating jobs, not destroying them.
Yet that is what legislation filed last week would do: destroy jobs in the fast-growing renewable energy sector.
House Bill 298, with a lead sponsor of Rep. Michael Hager, R-Rutherford, would roll back the state's renewable energy laws that have spawned solar and wind farms and spurred many homeowners and small businesses to install solar panels.
That law directs the state's electrical utilities to buy an increasing percentage of its electricity over the next several years from producers who used renewable technologies and methods. Solar panels and wind farms are the two most prevalent, but there are also many other technologies in development. The state's utilities supported the law when it was passed in 2007 and are not seeking its repeal this year.
Because renewable energy is more expensive to produce, the federal government subsidizes it with tax credits. These clean, and locally produced, forms of energy have created thousands of jobs.
HB 298 would have disastrous consequences because it directs utilities to buy all of their power based on the cheapest production. Hager, a former Duke Energy engineer, says the government should not interfere with the electricity market.
Somehow, Hager has overlooked the considerable government interference in the fossil-fuel market, interference in the form of tax breaks and special-use permits for government lands.
Should this bill pass, it would not only destroy the state's renewable energy companies, it would also undermine the investments of the many private North Carolinians who had solar panels installed on their homes and who now sell their electricity back to the power companies.
For more than two years now, since they gained control of the General Assembly, Republican legislators have been rolling back environmental protections with a fury. Now their enthusiasm is getting to the point of undermining their own platform. They would kill jobs with this bill.
Let's hope that reasonable legislators will stop this bill and save North Carolina jobs.
The Charlotte Observer on school boards target of legislative redistricting:
Some N.C. Republican lawmakers aren't content that through partisan redistricting in 2011 they've pretty much locked up a majority of seats in the state legislature for at least a decade or more. They've turned their attention now to grabbing advantage at the local level by redrawing district lines for school board races.
Last Wednesday, two local bills were introduced in the Senate to make big changes in the election of school board members in the state's biggest and third-biggest school districts — Wake County (Raleigh) and Guilford County (Greensboro). It was the last day local bills could be introduced.
Guilford bill S317, filed by first-term Republican Sen. Trudy Wade, caught the school board and her legislative delegation by surprise. It would make the Guilford board partisan, limit terms to two years instead of four and redraw district lines. Revamping the school board has been a priority of Conservatives for Guilford County, a local political group. Two years ago, GOP legislators were successful at changing district lines for the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, a move that gave Republicans control of the board for the first time in 14 years.
The Wake bill, S325, which would institute at-large seats for two of the nine board seats, also had a partisan impetus. The Republican majority on the Wake County Board of Commissioners, frequently at odds with the Democrat-led school board, requested the at-large seat change. Currently all seats are from districts. ...
Blatantly partisan redistricting moves aren't new. Democrats engaged in them in congressional and legislative remapping when they held power. We decried the Democrats for such moves, too.
Those partisan manipulations are a huge reason why for years we've urged lawmakers to get out of the business of drawing district lines, and leave it to a nonpartisan panel. ...
There may be nothing the public can do to change the power-grab fest that some N.C. lawmakers are engaging in. But legislators should know this — the public is watching. Such blatant manipulation of voting districts for political advantage might yet backfire at the voting booth.
News & Observer of Raleigh on the economy:
It is more than just a blip. Last month, the United States added 236,000 jobs, and the nation's unemployment rate dropped from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent. The numbers are better than forecasters expected and heartening in a country that has suffered greatly since the Great Recession really hit in late 2008 and dragged on and on and on.
For those who remain without jobs, of course, it might as well still be the height of the recession.
Most of the economic news since 2008 has been grim, with job losses and high unemployment and a crushing mortgage crisis. President Barack Obama's attempts to boost the economy, with stimulus packages and then with a special jobs bill (largely rejected by the Republicans in Congress) have met partisan resistance and skepticism, but it's clear some things have worked.
The good thing, or one of the good things, about the February numbers is the confidence they will bring to investors and business owners, many of whom have been sitting on large sums of cash but hesitant to invest in new hiring. That hesitancy should ease, because this is a sign of robust life.
In North Carolina, where the unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, the need is for jobs in more rural areas. (Raleigh's rate is 6.7 percent, and other urban areas have more job-development prospects with high-tech industry, for example.) That's going to take aggressive pursuit of industry and imagination from the state's leaders.
And it will demand continued investment from the state in community colleges, which are accomplished at job training and able to gear up to help a particular industry get workers ready. Those schools have been life-savers for many displaced workers in a couple of ways, first in giving them hope that they can find other ways to make a living for their families, and satisfaction in learning new skills, thus building their confidence.
It's likely it will take the state longer to recuperate fully from the recession, because its economy already was shaky even when the recession began. North Carolina had lost many thousands of manufacturing jobs, for example. Just look at the former textile communities in the western Piedmont and the foothills, where plants closed and workers who thought they were secure were left without work.
Some have sought retraining. That's good. But the state has to do its part to help people, through encouragement and assistance to simply providing information, gain more skills and other lines of work. If the waves of recovery are forming, North Carolinians deserve a chance to ride them.