Comments from the clip file

Published September 23, 2021

By Tom Campbell

Every columnist keeps a “clip file”- articles, stories or ideas from which to write future pieces. Sometimes that file becomes so full it’s hard to choose just one topic on which to write. I decided that this week I would combine several from the file into one column. Let me know how you like it.
Filled up, burned out and lonely
In early June it looked as if COVID-19 was waning. We were so tired of being sequestered and restricted that we joyfully stomped on the gas to speed our return to normal. We know how that worked out. Delta slammed us. Unfortunately, we also stopped showing appreciation for our frontline workers, especially our healthcare heroes, the doctors and nurses in hospital emergency and ICU units. They never got to fully relax and recover. Some were burned out and left the profession, adding to our nursing shortage. Hospitals are once again filled and healthcare professionals are as overworked as last February, only now they aren’t getting the appreciation we showed earlier. We can’t do their healing work, but we can show how much we value them. How about taking or sending a meal to the hospital ER or ICU? Better still, call and ask what they need. Our healthcare heroes are as important as ever. Let’s show them some love.
Chickens come home to roost
A three-judge panel of Superior Court judges once again struck down North Carolina’s Voter ID law. They ruled that the Legislature’s Republican majority “‘target[ed] voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party. Even if done for partisan ends, that constitute[s] racial discrimination.” In 2018 North Carolinians approved an amendment to our Constitution for voters to identify themselves at the polls. 35 other states have the requirement, so we know it can be done, but our lawmakers have repeatedly attempted to stay in power by passing laws that discriminate against minority voters. Their laws have been struck down by state and federal courts and the chickens have come home to roost. We’ve lost confidence legislators can pass an impartial voter ID law. These repeated lawsuits are costing taxpayers millions of dollars and we still don’t have voter ID.  It‘s time lawmakers call together all affected parties and negotiate a fair law that won’t be challenged in court. 
Showdown at the Leandro corral
Burley Mitchell was Chief Justice of our state Supreme Court in 1997 when the Leandro verdict was released. Originated by low-wealth school districts, the suit maintained poorer districts didn’t have the money wealthier counties had and couldn’t offer comparable educations. The plaintiffs wanted the state to put them on equal footing. The court ruled that every child must have “access” to a sound basic education. We’ve been debating and arguing how to accomplish this ever since. In June, Judge David Lee approved a plan negotiated with the plaintiffs, support groups, the State Board of Education and Governor Cooper’s administration. Among other things it called for $5.6 billion in additional k-12 education funding and he ordered the legislature to comply with the ruling. Legislative leaders objected, saying that Lee had no authority to dictate what they would or would not appropriate for education. One legislator said that if Lee wanted to pass laws he should run for the legislature. Frustrated with the lack of response, Judge Lee recently told lawmakers to comply with the negotiated plan by October 15th or face the consequences.
I asked Justice Mitchell, long retired from the bench, if Judge Lee could compel the General Assembly to spend the money. “Absolutely,” was Mitchell’s response. In a matter of weeks, we’re going to see a showdown. Who is your money on?
The horse has left the starting gate
While on the subject, gambling has become a topic of discussion with our lawmakers. They are considering whether to authorize sports gambling. Truth is its already taking place on a large scale. Either our legislators don’t know or want to admit that the horse has already left the starting gate. Whether they approve of gambling or not, it’s time we stopped dragging our feet and pass legislation to set up a gaming commission to effectively regulate games of chance and hopefully keep underworld types out. It should include pari-mutuel betting. Horse racing could stimulate our economy through breeding, raising and caring for horses, as well as racing. You can bet on the bobtail. I’ll take the bay.