Political notebook: Nichol delivers fiery speech to Rowan Democrats

Published 12:10 am Saturday, June 27, 2015

Speaking to a crowded room of Democrats, University of North Carolina Law Professor Gene Nichol on Thursday issued harsh criticisms of state government and the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Nichol’s criticism extended to most policy decisions made by the General Assembly in 2015. He said Governor Pat McCrory and the General Assembly are waging war on North Carolina’s poor, the environment, public education and women. He received two standing ovations — one after a speech and a second following a question and answer session. As the director of UNC’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, Nichol, expectedly, spent most of his time addressing income inequality and poverty.

Before he began, however, Nichol read an obligatory statement clarifying that his opinions weren’t those of the University of North Carolina System.

Then he dove in.

“We don’t believe in people being able to criticize what we do,” Nichol said, mocking the state’s politicians. “We’ll talk it up and say what the great benefits of our legislative program are. We’ll string together litanies of falsehoods about it, but no one should be allowed to question what we say. It’s as if this was North Korea, instead of North Carolina.”

The Republican caucuses in the General Assembly don’t include a single black member, Nichol said. Likewise, he said McCrory’s administration is majority white.

“Some might say that’s impolite to mention — accurate but impolite,” Nichol said. “It’s apparently OK to govern as a white people party, but it’s just not OK to notice it.”

He described a war on the poor in North Carolina by citing the General Assembly’s tax reform strategy. Republicans in the General Assembly are cutting taxes for the wealthiest North Carolinians, while raising taxes on the poor, Nichol said.

“Poor people are going to prosper if we just make them pay more taxes, cut their benefits and give that money to the people who already have a bigger share of our wealth and income,” Nichol joked.

Nichol said Democrats are guilty of not standing up for residents of North Carolina. Speaking about Democrats who are only concerned with getting re-elected, Nichol asked: “Do you care at all that we will be decimated as a people or just that your seat will stay warm?”

He also briefly discussed the closure of UNC’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which Nichol is the director of. Nichol said the center — picked for closure earlier in the year by the UNC Board of Governors — will officially shut its doors on July 1.

Nichol said the poverty center’s closure occurred for “uttlerly predictable and partisan reasons.” The reasons, Nichol said, included his outspoken opinions on political matters.

Democrats protest magistrate recusal bill

Democrats in the North Carolina House of Representatives aren’t happy about an override of a Gov. Pat McCrory veto.

This week, more than 40 house representatives signed a protest of Senate Bill 2, which allows magistrates and staff in the register of deeds office to be recused from marriage ceremonies. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Pat McCrory after passing both houses of the General Assembly. The senate voted to override the veto by a significant margin. The House’s vote was much closer, just three votes.

The protest cites limited debate and a sudden vote on the override as reasons for its creation. The protests lists eight substantive injuries and four procedural injuries that occurred as a result of Republican action.

In the protest, the Democrats say the bill is “substantially and constitutionally injurious to the public.”

McCrory signs bills into law

At least 12 bills became law this week when they received McCrory’s signature.

Two of the bills signed by McCrory were:

• Senate Bill 621, which allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to send renewal notifications by electronic means, such as email, after receiving authorization from a vehicle owner.

• Senate Bill 301, which exempts the Department of Transportation from getting approval when purchasing contaminated property.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.