Leading from the Left

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Check out the "Dirty Dozen"

The May 6th primary is just around the corner. And while most of the attention has been focused on top-of-the-ticket races—president, governor, and US Senate—all 170 of our state legislative seats are up for grabs this year.

The doings of our legislature are often overlooked by voters, even the most engaged voters, which is a shame because these men and women make decisions that really impact our lives. For better or worse, the North Carolina legislature does as much to shape our every day lives as Congress….maybe more so. Funding for schools, roads and transportation, public health, and environmental protections.

Just in time for the upcoming primary, the Conservation Council of North Carolina has released its 2007 Legislative Scorecard. The scorecard ranks state legislators based on votes they cast in last year’s long session of the General Assembly. To help shine a light on legislators who have failed to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of North Carolina, the Conservation Council named a “Dirty Dozen” list of State House members. These twelve consistently sided with polluters over people. Additionally, CCNC named “The Filthy Five,” a list of 5 State Senators who also had abysmal rankings.

Unsurprisingly, our local delegation had excellent rankings. The standout, was State Senator Ellie Kinnaird who was one of only 5 legislators who received perfect 100% scores. Congratulations, Ellie!

Click here to take a sneak peak at the complete 2007 Environmental Scorecard on the Conservation Council website and use the results to help you decide whom to vote for this year.

And why not also make a contribution to Conservation Council to support the great work we're doing over at the General Assembly to protect the environment. Click here to make an online contribution.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Resolution in Support of the Transfer Referendum

Tonight, several Orange County Democratic Party precinct committees passed a referendum supporting the transfer tax referendum which will be on the ballot on May 6th. The resolution now goes to the Democratic Party's Platform and Resolution committee, and if approved, will be voted on at the OCDP Convention in April. The text of the resolution follows:

Whereas Orange County requires additional revenue sources to support our growing need for quality schools, to create parks and preserve other open space, and more generally to ensure the high quality of life that wish to enjoy, and

Whereas the County Commissioners have made clear their intent to raise the necessary funds for these purposes through the means best suited to the people of our county, and

Whereas both sales tax and property tax increases tend to cause disproportionate hardship on those in our community who are already struggling to make ends meet, and

Therefore be it resolved that an increase in the Land Transfer Tax is preferable to increases in other forms of taxes available to the county, including sales and property taxes, and

Be it further resolved that the Orange County Democratic Party hereby endorses the proposed Land Transfer Tax on the May 6 ballot and encourages all citizens to vote in its favor.

Governor Proposes Water Conservation Plan

Today, Governor Easley announced a proposal to address North Carolina's water needs. His proposal is in response to problems caused by the drought. I haven't studied the details yet, and the devil will most certainly be in the details, but the Governor has gotten a much needed conversation started. Here's the press release announcing his proposal:

Unveils SaveWaterNC.org Website to Raise Public Awareness on Drought
RALEIGH – Gov. Mike Easley today announced a three-part legislative package to modernize North Carolina’s public water systems, mandate water conservation and efficiency, and upgrade the response to water emergencies. The governor also unveiled a new website, SaveWaterNC.org, aimed at continued water conservation.
“This legislation will help North Carolina’s public water systems improve their services to customers and be better prepared to deal with future droughts, but we also need to change our attitude about using water in North Carolina,” said Easley. “We can not let up on our conservation efforts and that is why today I am announcing a public awareness effort to encourage citizens to save as much water as possible now, make water conservation a way of life in North Carolina and make our state drought proof.”
The governor was joined today by Sec. Bill Ross of the Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources and Secretary Bryan Beatty of the Dept. of Crime Control & Public Safety.
Legislative proposals to modernize the state’s more than 600 public water systems include:
• Local water systems must develop thorough water shortage plans, conduct regular leak detection and repair audits, and move toward conservation based pricing in order to be eligible for state funds for water system improvement projects.
• Priority for state funding will go to projects that improve a community’s ability to manage water supplies during a drought, such as interconnections for drought-prone communities; leak detection projects; upgrades to meters and metering systems to help homeowners and agencies more closely and accurately monitor water consumption; and water re-use facilities that use treated wastewater for landscape irrigation, industrial uses and for other appropriate purposes.
• DENR will get staff and funding to develop a detailed and up-to-date map that shows all water system interconnections, alternative water supplies, groundwater status and other information.
• New outdoor water uses, such as in-ground irrigation, will be required to have meters separate from meters that monitor indoor water use.
• Enhanced enforcement to be sure that business that use more than 100,000 gallons a day register with DENR as required, including penalties for willful non-compliance.
• Identification of all other large water users.
• Requiring monthly water use reports under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to be submitted electronically instead of on paper and allowing the DENR Secretary to require additional reporting as necessary during periods of drought.
The governor’s legislative package would also make changes that mandate water conservation and efficiency, to include:
• Prohibiting rate structures that cut the rates for users when they use more water.
• Directing DENR to develop guidelines for water rate structures that encourage people to use less water.
• Revising the building code to require water efficient fixtures in new commercial and residential construction
• Adopting water efficiency standards for new in-ground irrigation systems.
• Changing the rules so that household water, or “gray water,” from sinks, bathtubs and showers can be used to hand-water trees, shrubs, and plants in a homeowner’s yard.
Finally, the legislation would improve the state’s ability to respond to water emergencies, including giving the governor more power to take action prior to a declaration of a public health and safety emergency. Proposals include:
• Giving North Carolina governors the legal authority to order a water system to provide water to a neighboring community in an emergency.
• Requiring communities in extreme and exceptional drought to adhere to minimum water conservation standards developed by the DENR.
• Giving local water agencies in extreme and exceptional drought the authority to impose mandatory water conservation measures to all water users within their jurisdiction, including customers of privately owned water utilities regulated by the state Utilities Commission.
• Enacting a sales tax holiday for the purchase of water saving devices.
• Examining the possibility of incentives to promote efficient water use, which is usually done by local governments.
• Staffing and funding to create an Office of Water Conservation and Efficiency in DENR to more effectively oversee all our water policy, planning and conservation efforts.
The governor also announced a new website aimed at convincing the public to continue saving water to avoid a crisis in the current drought and to instill the need for continued water conservation even when the drought is over.
“We have had some good rains recently, more than we have had in a long time. But when that happens, people tend to forget about the drought,” said Easley. “April is the month when water systems statewide begin seeing increased water use due to the growing season and rising temperatures that cause more evaporation, so we need to continue saving water every way we can.”
The website, SaveWaterNC.org, was developed by the departments of Crime Control & Public Safety and Environment & Natural Resources. The website includes: conservation tips for specific audiences including businesses, homes and schools; examples of successful water saving efforts; links to water conservation information for the state’s largest cities; a kid’s page; educational links and materials; and interactive tools such as water conservation calculators so people can enter their personal water use and see how much they are saving.