The timing was perfect. On Monday, John Skvarla, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, again wobbled on the climate change question, telling a lunch crowd at the conservative John Locke Foundation: "It's a disservice for me to have an opinion on global warming. I'm not a scientist."
On the same day as Skvarla's speech (at which he also defended fracking and kvetched that DENR's role had previously been "an eco-enforcer"), an international panel of scientists agreed that there is a 95 percent chance human activity is causing global warming. The odds have increased from 90 percent, as last reported in a 2007 assessment. Warming could cause oceans to rise as much as 3 feet by 2100, endangering coastlines all over the world, including North Carolina's fragile seashore.
Skvarla added that he has 2,000 scientists within the agency to "look at all aspects of the issue and make an enlightened decision. There's nothing radical about that."
What is radical is that in light of all the scientific evidence, the head of a science-based agency—it also oversees the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences—still refuses to take a stand on one of the most crucial issues of the 21st century.
Surely, Skvarla, a Gov. McCrory appointee, does not have an opinion on football, since he is not a quarterback. Or opinions on haircuts, since he is not a barber.
This type of nonsense emanating from the McCrory administration has turned North Carolina into fodder for The New York Times, which by now has realized finding political stories in the Tar Heel State is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. (Given this legislature's propensity for guns, killing fish in such a manner, if not legal, probably will be.)
In the past week, The Times published two stories, "North Carolinians Fear the End of a Middle Way" and "North Carolina's Sharp Right Turn," that chronicle the state's wayward course. The latter article quotes prominent Republicans, including Ann Goodnight, as criticizing policies of the GOP-led legislature and the McCrory administration: Goodnight, as in a powerful proponent of higher education and wife of Jim Goodnight, CEO of the SAS Institute.
Meanwhile, Slate and The Nation rolled out North Carolina as Exhibit A in arguing that the Supreme Court's decision on the Voting Rights Act can be abused. However, Slate noted, "if North Carolina can demonstrate that it is motivated in its election laws by an intent to discriminate against Democrats rather than on the basis of race (despite the high correlation between the two), many constitutional claims will fail for lack of proof of intentional racial discrimination."
That has not deterred people from filing court challenges to the new election law: One was filed by Rosanell Eaton, a 92-year-old black woman from Louisburg, N.C., who does not have photo ID but has been registered to vote since the 1940s. Co-plaintiffs are the NAACP and the Advancement Project.
A second lawsuit was filed by the League of Women Voters (LWV) and four registered voters, including 78-year-old Alberta Currie of Hope Mills. Born at home, she does not have a birth certificate, nor photo ID, but has voted consistently since becoming eligible in 1956.
Women are disproportionately affected by the photo ID requirement, the LWV lawsuit states. Women make up 54 percent of active voters, but they account for two-thirds of those voters who don't have a North Carolina photo ID.
The battle over voting rights and the quixotic attempts to pass any progressive measures past GOP lawmakers prompted former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, an Orange County Democrat, to retire from the legislature this week after 17 years.
"The needless pain and suffering the Republicans have brought upon us that I have written about add up to a huge setback for North Carolinians from all walks of life. My own personal sadness is the dismantling of my environmental, social justice and death penalty efforts," she wrote in a letter to constituents.
Kinnaird is joining a grassroots project to ensure everyone who is eligible to vote can get the proper documentation to do so.