North Carolina editorial roundup

The Associated Press

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Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

March 1

Winston-Salem Journal on redistricting:

Two long days of heated testimony before a three-judge Superior Court panel in Raleigh recently highlight more dramatically North Carolina's need for a nonpartisan, independent commission for redrawing legislative and congressional districts every 10 years.

Democratic voters and civil-rights and election-advocacy groups have sued over maps drawn by the 2011 General Assembly. They say that Republican legislators unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts to diminish black-voter influence and drastically reduce Democratic success.

The redistricting process is a travesty. For more than a century, the Democratic Party maintained a tighter grip on state politics than it deserved simply by gerrymandering legislative and congressional districts. When Republicans won big in 2010, they, understandably, repaid the favor. But those harmed most are North Carolinians. We are, once again, stuck with a one-party, non-competitive political system that does not reflect the political and philosophical profile of North Carolina voters. In short, it is a system designed not to represent North Carolinians but to preserve one party's control.

North Carolina needs a non-partisan, independent redistricting commission charged with strict guidelines for drawing districts that reflect communities of interest and assuring equal voting rights. The commission should be denied any information on the partisan voting trends in any precinct and the home addresses of all incumbents.

Such a commission would give the voters the competitive districts they deserve, districts that would be reflective of our communities, not of partisan interests.



March 5

The Daily Reflector, of Greenville on payday lending legislation:

Many North Carolina families are struggling to stay afloat following the economic recession, trying to make ends meet amid high unemployment, falling wages and shrinking savings. Some have compiled a mountain of debt in that period, using personal loans and credit cards to pay for necessities — a risky strategy but one of the few available when desperation required it.

It would therefore be a tremendous risk for the General Assembly to allow payday lenders to again operate in the state, which legislation now under consideration would do. Credit Gov. Pat McCrory for signaling his reservations about those operations and calling on lawmakers to carefully consider the possible effects of letting those predators loose on the people once again.

In 2001, North Carolina made history as the first state to outlaw payday lending, the short-term, high-interest loans often used by customers to pay bills in between paychecks. Lenders had operated under close scrutiny for four years prior to the prohibition, which followed a damning report by the North Carolina banking commissioner that showed the cycle of debt that is often created by the loans.

That study showed that one in seven borrowers turned to the short-term funding at least 19 times a year, racking up high interest and fees as a result. For many, one loan turns into another, leaving those in need of cash facing massive bills — and enriching the lenders, which contend that the high price is justified by the risk of offering unsecured loans.

Under legislation pending in Raleigh, payday lenders would again be authorized to operate, but could only make loans up to $500 and charge an interest rate of 15 percent. The industry has hired a number of high-profile lobbyists to advance their interests, and the bill has powerful sponsors, including Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca and Democratic Sen. Clark Jenkins, who formerly represented Pitt County.

However, those standing against payday lending are equally impressive, including Attorney General Roy Cooper and, recently, McCrory. The state's chief executive said that as he wants to see government operate without accruing debt, so too should individuals be protected from schemes that would compromise their financial footing.

These may be difficult times for thousands of North Carolina families, but lawmakers know where this path leads. The governor is correct in his reservations and should continue to advocate against a restoration of this predatory and financial ruinous practice.



March 3

News & Observer of Raleigh on tanning salon legislation:

On this side, the American Sunbathing Association, representing among others, tanning salons. With representation from their scientific adviser, the association was fighting a proposal in the North Carolina General Assembly to prohibit those under 18 from going to tanning salons. The fight was in part over the fact that the bill was seen as picking on small businesses.

And on this side, the American Cancer Society. A little organization you may have heard of, featuring family doctors, dermatologists and oncologists. The society was all in favor of the ban, which is why The News & Observer reported recently it was moving right along toward the law books.

Used in moderation (there are in fact skin conditions that benefits from sun rays or facsimiles thereof) tanning beds might be OK, but too many people develop almost an obsession with having deep tans. But the risk of skin cancer from UV rays is well-documented, and to the degree the state can protect younger people from developing this bad habit, it should.

For its part, the science adviser for the ASA did acknowledge to lawmakers that he is neither a doctor, nor a scientist.


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