North Carolina’s Republican Party is having an identity crisis

OPINION — All eyes with be on North Carolina next year, when the Republican Party holds its 2020 convention in Charlotte to nominate President Donald Trump for a second term. In truth, though, the state has been the center of attention for a while because of actions of party members — and the gaze has not been kind.

Charlotte Talks Local News Roundup: VP Pence Visits CLT; Huntersville Ed Committee Recommendations

On this edition of the Charlotte Talks local news roundup:

The Huntersville education advisory commission recommends that the town operate its own charter school and split from CMS, a move that one CMS official says is “politically driven. How likely is this outcome?

Vice President Mike Pence was in the Queen City this week for an RNC Kickoff Meeting, as next year’s Convention, which will be held in Charlotte, is getting closer. What was the purpose of this visit, and what have we learned about plans for the 2020 Republican National Convention?

As abortion legislation is passed around the country, rallies are taking place nationwide, and here in the Queen City. We’ll talk about a Charlotte rally where anti-abortion and abortion-rights advocates clashed.

In South Carolina, the House and the Senate have now approved around $120 million in tax breaks to offer to the Carolina Panthers to entice them to move practice fields and the team’s headquarters to the state from North Carolina.

And get ready to start your engines — this weekend is the second “Race Weekend” in a row for Charlotte (we hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race last Saturday, and this weekend is the Coca-Cola 600). What should we know to attend the event or avoid the crowds?

Those stories and much more with Mike Collins and a panel of journalists on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

Guests:

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com and WCCB

Alexandra OlginWFAE Reporter

Glenn Burkins, editor and publisher of QCityMetro.com

Jonathan Lowe, reporter for Spectrum News 

Roll Call Columnists on SCOTUS Abortion, McDonnell Decisions

Every presidential election, one side or other has tried, mostly in vain, to make appointments to the Supreme Court a major issue. With the present court’s rulings on controversial issues announced to a divided country — to reactions of shock and celebration, depending on which side you’re on — 2016 may be different.

Obama visit adds heat to contentious and crucial North Carolina Senate race

About the only thing that’s certain about North Carolina’s crucial Senate race is that it’s close. Polls show a tight contest, with Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and her Republican opponent Thom Tillis exchanging slim leads. It’s not even clear what the November midterm will be about.

Is it a nationalized election, with Hagan tied to a president with low approval numbers? Will Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House, be weighed down with dissatisfaction over a sometimes dysfunctional state legislature? Will the economy be the ruling issue or will education, health care and the environment, major North Carolina concerns, rise in importance? What role will social issues — abortion and same-sex marriage — play in turning out the base in both parties?

If this past week was an indication, the answer is maybe – or perhaps, all of the above.

The president and the pope: What will they talk about?

During President Obama’s upcoming European trip, he’ll be engaging in important diplomatic and political discussions, including the Nuclear Security Summit, hosted by the Dutch government, and a U.S.-EU Summit in Brussels. But perhaps most anticipated by observers of church and state — and where the two intersect — will be the president’s planned March 27 get together with Time’s Person of the Year, Pope Francis.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory gives protesters cookies – seriously

North Carolina GOP Gov. Pat McCrory hand carried chocolate-chip cookies to abortion bill protesters outside the Raleigh governor’s mansion in a let’s-make-up gesture. The surprised recipient said he told her, “‘These are for you. God bless you, God bless you, God bless you.’”  The cookies were returned, and it wasn’t because he forgot the milk. The note on the untouched plate read: “We want women’s health care, not cookies.”

The Tuesday scene, described by The News & Observer, was fallout from McCrory’s Monday night signing of legislation that, among other provisions, will make clinics adopt some of the regulations that apply to ambulatory surgery centers, and allow health-care providers to opt out of performing abortions if they object. Opponents say the new law will limit access to abortion by forcing clinics to close, while McCrory and the bill’s supporters say the health and safety of the state’s citizens, not politics, are what’s at stake.

McCrory’s sincerity is not the issue. After state health officials sanctioned an Asheville, N.C., clinic on Wednesday for “egregious violations … that revealed an imminent threat to the health and safety of patients,” it was either evidence of the need for greater vigilance or proof that current laws are working, depending on which side you support. But it certainly means the subject of clinic safety will and should remain center stage.

However, McCrory’s name on the bill was a cue for endless televised replays of his 2012 pledge during a gubernatorial debate that, if elected, he would not sign any further abortion restrictions into law. In recent Public Policy Polling, the abortion bill was supported by only 34 percent of voters, with 47 percent opposing it. By a similar 48 to 33 margin, voters preferred that McCrory veto the bill (and that number included 25 percent of Republicans).

The cookies treat for angry dissenters was a clumsy move (they chanted:  ”Hey Pat, that was rude. You wouldn’t give cookies to a dude.”) and also in keeping with some of the troubles that have plagued McCrory since he made the leap from Charlotte mayor to the most prominent political job in the state. Engaging protesters about the issue of clinic safety would have been a better move.

Though presiding over Republican super-majorities in the state House and Senate, he has seemed more follower than leader, swept along by a conservative wave of proposals that has signaled North Carolina’s change in political direction, at a loss when talking with many who must have voted for him.

Abortion restrictions in North Carolina Senate bill set up political, moral standoff

Not to be outdone in the headlines by the Texas Wendy Davis vs. Rick Perry duel over an abortion bill or Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich signing a budget bill that includes funding cuts and restrictions to limit abortions, North Carolina is moving ahead with its own slate of abortion-related bills. Proponents say the measures would insure women’s safety, opponents insist it’s about limiting women’s rights and choices, and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory is caught in a bind.

Candidate McCrory tried to occupy a middle ground on the hot-button issue, saying he would not sign any further restrictions on abortion into law. But as governor, McCrory has been following the lead of conservative Republican veto-proof super-majorities in the state House and Senate. A wave of proposals — from voter-ID restrictions to cutbacks on unemployment payments – has resulted in push-back from protesters who continue to show up inside and outside the state capitol in Raleigh each week.

Hundreds more made their way to Raleigh to shout “shame” at the state Senate’s actions this week. The GOP majority attached new abortion restrictions to a bill that would ban North Carolina family courts from considering foreign laws and passed it by a 29-12 vote.

Nurses describe ‘unsafe’ conditions at Delaware abortion clinic

When Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing babies in his West Philadelphia abortion clinic, it brought a continuing debate onto the front pages, with even the amount of trial coverage a cause of conflict. With his case as a backdrop, abortion-rights activists warned that his filthy and dangerous clinic would be the norm for desperate poor women if increasingly restrictive laws continued to be approved.  Planned Parenthood called his crimes “appalling.” Many opposed to abortion saw Gosnell and his clinic, ignored by regulators, as indicative of why terminating a pregnancy, particularly late in the process, should be illegal. The fact that what Gosnell was doing was criminal occasionally got lost in all the politics. His case, though, is prompting closer looks at abortion providers.

In neighboring Delaware, state lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday tried to sort out allegations of questionable medical conduct at several clinics there, and what the state did or did not do in response. The setting — a bipartisan hearing at the state capital of Dover though no legislation was pending — could be considered political. The focus was the testimony of two nurses who said they were not opposed to abortions, but to unsafe medical practices. They described conditions they said they witnessed at their former employer, Planned Parenthood of Delaware, including rushed abortion procedures that emphasized speed and profit instead of patient safety, insufficiently trained staff and a neglect of medical standards that ultimately put patients at risk.

Weighing justice and vengeance — from Boston to Cleveland to Philadelphia

Horrific crimes deserve fitting punishment.

Lately we’ve had no shortage of the former: a Boston bombing on a beautiful marathon day, news of a decade-long ordeal for three women held captive in a Cleveland house of horrors, a Philadelphia doctor who twisted his oath by murdering helpless infants.

When justice doesn’t seem quite enough, is vengeance the only thing that will do?

Mommy and Daddy state? N.C. bill would require parental consent for birth control, STD treatment

Looking back, I realize how understanding my parents really were, how they only wanted the best for me, how they really weren’t there just to judge, even when I made a stupid mistake. But during those teen years, my thought process was seldom that clear. There’s a reason why the lament “my parents don’t understand me” has become cliche.

Luckily, the generational disconnect never caused irreparable harm.

If a bill that has made it through a North Carolina House committee is passed, it won’t just repeal a four-decade-old law, opponents worry it might cause unintended and lasting consequences. That the bill is drawing headlines is notable, considering how tough it’s been to stand out in the flurry being considered by the Republican-controlled state legislature. Protests and arrests have followed bills on voter IDs, unemployment benefit cuts and other conservative proposals. Then, again, this bill deals with teens and sex.