Mass Shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, When Will Enough Be Enough?

This morning, I was shocked and stunned once again by the tragic killing of what is now 11 people by a gunman at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Far too often, in recent years, we have heard about gunman entering churches and killing innocent people as they worshiped. I can recall being on the phone with my friend, NC Senator Malcom Graham, when he learned that his sister was one of the victims of the tragic killing of parishioners of a Black Church in Charleston, South Carolina. These types of senseless, random acts of violence are occurring far too frequently. Today, I heard that the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, had recorded a 57% increase this past year in acts of violence against Jews in our country. Apparently, the gunman, on this occasion, was apprehended by police officers who understood their duty to protect and serve, and four of them were unfortunately wounded. The gunman, once again, had an assault rifle as well as three sidearms.

We must, as a nation, have the political will to control and limit access to firearms and ammunition. Our leaders in Washington must also stop using divisive rhetoric that causes political extremists to feel comfortable spewing their hatred and engaging in violent acts against others. Unfortunately, our president, when questioned about this incident, felt that the answer to what occurred would’ve been best addressed by having security at the synagogue. We should not have to fortify our churches and synagogues to be safe. Instead, changing laws related to access to firearms, particularly assault weapons, is critical and necessary, as well as eliminating divisive political rhetoric.

Durham Officials: Unanimous Opposition to the Proposed Constitutional Amendments

I have seldom felt as proud as I did earlier today when it was announced that every elected official in Durham County had come together to voice their unanimous opposition to the six proposed constitutional amendments that are on the ballot for voter consideration. This includes Mayor Schewel, the Durham City Council, all County Commissioners, all School Board members, as well as all Soil and Water District Commissioners. I and Rep. Marcia Morey joined many of these elected officials today when they held a press conference to voice their opposition to these constitutional amendments which are unneeded, unnecessary, and rather than increasing the rights of our citizens, for the most part, they will erode the rights of many of us. I’d like to thank my friends and colleagues for standing up firmly and aggressively to voice their opposition to these amendments. I don’t think there is another county in the State of NC, though I certainly hope there is one, where all the political leadership has shown this type of enlightened political courage.

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Special Session of the NCGA Called to Discuss Hurricane Florence Relief

A Special Session of the North Carolina General Assembly Where Bipartisan Support of Hurricane Relief Ruled the Day

Today, a Special Session of the NC General Assembly was called by Governor Cooper to consider two bills which are necessary as a result of Hurricane Florence. Senate Bill 2, titled School Calendar & Pay/Hurricane Florence, would allow public schools in counties which had received a federal disaster assistance declaration to reduce the number of hours of instructions to students attending public schools in the designated counties. It would allow school districts the flexibility to make up some days of missed classes, however, these districts could actually waive up to 20 days of missed classes if it was necessary to do so. While I support this legislation, I did raise questions during committee discussions relating to how we can provide students in these districts with opportunities to take additional classes during the summer months or during other occasions. I do not want to see our students academically shortchanged and placed at a competitive disadvantage because they missed up to a month of classes in some of these districts. These students would also be placed at a competitive disadvantage end of grade tests. This bill provided $6.5 million dollars to provide compensation for school lunch employees whose compensation is normally provided for through school lunch receipts and federal funds on instructional days.

The other bill which was passed was House Bill 4, titled Hurricane Florence Emergency Response Act. This bill appropriated $56.5 million dollars for hurricane relief. Included within this figure was the $6.5 million dollars for the school lunch employees hereinabove. These funds would currently be directed towards 28 counties which have been designated under the major disaster declaration issued by the federal government. In addition, this bill extended the deadline for voter registration applications from October 12th, 2018 until October 15th, 2018 at 5:00 pm. It also provided County Boards of Election to provide for a substitution of a one-stop voting site if it was unanimously agreed upon by the local County Board of Elections. The bill also allowed County Boards of Election to alter voting places for Election Day if the change was for the purpose of providing a substitute location for a voting precinct damaged by Hurricane Florence. Local Boards of Elections must provide notice to voters of these changes in the most expedient manner possible which may include public service announcements, print, radio, television, online and social media. It would have been great if the bill could have allowed greater flexibility for people who have been displaced by Hurricane Florence to apply for, obtain, and submit absentee ballots, however, that was not included in the bill.

There were also funds provided in this bill to address the emergence of large populations of mosquitos in floodwater-impacted areas. Lastly, there were opportunities for the governor to waive the collection of certain motor vehicle fees for residents in these impacted counties in the event that a person perhaps needed a duplicate driver’s license or other similar types of documents that might have been lost as a result of Hurricane Florence. Fortunately, there was unanimous support in the Senate for both of these bills. I only wish that we could see such bipartisanship on other occasions.

A Debate Relating to a Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Tonight, it was my pleasure to participate as a panelist in the debate dealing with the proposed constitutional amendment which will change the way that judges are appointed in the State of North Carolina if it is approved by voters. The debate was hosted by the NC Institute of Political Leadership and held at the beautiful Merony Theatre in Downtown Salisbury.

The other panelists for the debate were Wayne Goodwin, who is a former Insurance Commissioner and currently Chairman of the State Democratic Party, as well as Senator Paul Newton, a Republican who serves portions of Cabarrus and Union counties, and Attorney Brent Woodcox, who is a Special Counsel to Senator Phil Berger, the President Pro-Tempore of the NC Senate. Loretta Boniti of Spectrum News served as the moderator for the debate which lasted one hour.

A portion of the debate will air on her program “In Focus” which broadcasts on Sunday’s on Spectrum News at 11:00 am and again at 8:00 pm. The full debate will be available on Spectrum’s website. Currently, the governor has the power, under our State’s Constitution, to appoint those who will serve as judges in our state when vacancies occur due to death or resignation.

Today, when vacancy occurs, local attorneys in a judicial district all come together, meet, and vote to recommend five names to the governor. The governor typically picks from the list of five names recommended by the local bar association. If this constitutional amendment passes, local attorneys could potentially be excluded from this process, and, in addition, the General Assembly would have the sole authority to recommend two names to the governor to fill any judicial vacancy. The governor would then have to select between the two people recommended, otherwise the General Assembly would fill the vacancy. If the General Assembly was out of session, then the Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court would fill the vacancy. The governor would not have any authority to veto a bill solely containing judicial vacancies.

This would inject politics right into the heart and center of the judicial appointment process. In the original version of this bill, which was determined to be unconstitutional by a three-judge panel of Superior Court judges, it would also remove the power of the governor to appoint members to over 400 boards and commissions. This was ultimately removed after a court decision. Please recall that, within the last year, the Republican majority has made all judicial races partisan and eliminated all judicial primaries, and, in addition, they attempted to re-draw all Superior Court and District Court judicial districts in our state to guarantee Republicans at least two-thirds of the seats. They also reduced the number of members on the NC Court of Appeals by three members. All of this was done because, since 2010, more than 15 laws passed by the Republican majority in the General Assembly have been shot down by the courts. The GOP now wants to control the courts to have judges that are favorable to their interests. We need a fair, independent, impartial judiciary. Please vote against this amendment and Nix all Six proposed constitutional amendments coming before you for consideration this November.

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Visiting Communities Impacted by Hurricane Florence

This past Saturday morning, I got up at about 3:00 am since my plans for the day included visiting communities which were impacted by Hurricane Florence and the flooding which followed the storm. I had learned from people who had driven to the coast on Thursday and Friday that, as a result of the closing of Interstate-40, the trip could take up to 6 hours. I was determined that it wouldn’t take me that long. My conclusion was right since I was one of only a few persons driving at that hour of the day, however, the road was full of tractor trailers and tanker trucks, many of which were taking the only route open to Wilmington. I visited Jacksonville, Topsail Island, and the Wilmington area. I encountered many people whose homes were substantially damaged by the storm. The surprising thing is that so many of them were gratified and pleased that they had homes to return to since many had homes that were devastated. I took photographs of what I had seen, however, I realized that to post them it might be an invasion of the privacy of these families, and perhaps, cause them more frustration and despair.

Ultimately, I decided simply to post the photos below which depict the power of Mother Nature when a storm can change the landscape and wash away a sand dune which may have been 18-20 feet tall and leave the landscape with a stairway to nowhere with a drop-off to the ocean below. I also observed a fishing pier where hundreds of fishermen had gathered to enjoy a day at the ocean where the end is now washed away, and the integrity of the remaining structure is probably questionable. I hope that soon fishermen will be able to return with hopes of getting the catch of the day which they had dreamt of, but more importantly, that those who have lost hope today as a result of their losses can once again dream of a better tomorrow as they resume a normal way of life which they previously took for granted which was washed away in a matter of hours.

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Helping Those in Need in The Aftermath of Hurricane Florence

While the Raleigh-Durham area was not substantially impacted by Hurricane Florence, we should all do whatever we can to help those in our coastal communities whose lives and homes have been disrupted and in some instances destroyed by the force of this storm.
I would encourage you to reach out to those in coastal communities who you may know to offer assistance and to donate to relief organizations who are able to provide resources strategically to help the families with the greatest need.
We should all keep in our thoughts and prayers the first responders who are helping those in need as well as those who have suffered from this terrible tragedy.

Here is a link that you can use to donate or volunteer. The funds donated through this link will go to the United Way who will distribute those funds to local organizations helping those in need.
https://goo.gl/4uj48X

The Cancellation of McKissick For NC Senate Fundraiser Due To Hurricane Florence

In light of the impending and unknown impact of Hurricane Florence, I regretfully inform you that the fundraiser which was scheduled for September 13th at 6:30 pm at the Carolina Theater in Durham in support of McKissick for NC Senate has been canceled. If you would still like to make a donation you can use this link https://goo.gl/sRjio3

This event will be rescheduled once the aftermath of this storm is behind us, and Governor Cooper is available. I will advise you at that time of a new date for the fundraiser. In the interim, I hope and trust that each of you will prepare for the storm, and please help those in need of assistance who may not be fortunate enough to have the resources which each of us possesses to prepare for whatever this hurricane may bring.

My Thoughts and Prayers Are With You,

Senator Floyd B. McKissick Jr.
Senior Deputy Democratic Leader

A Celebration of the Life of Dr. Irvin McCaine Jr.

This past weekend, I traveled to New Rochelle, New York for an event celebrating the wonderful life of my first cousin, Dr. Irvin McCaine Jr., who passed away recently. I was very close to Irvin during my entire life, but particularly during the eight years that my family resided in New York. When I think of words that best describe Irvin, those were would be kind, compassionate, artistic, and independent. Irvin earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkley and he received his Doctorate of Dental Surgery Degree from Howard University in Washington DC. He followed in the footsteps of his father who was also a dentist who had graduated from Howard. Irvin’s mother, Mabel, was my mother’s sister. Mabel was the chief librarian of a high school in Yonkers, New York. Irvin was married to the late Barbara McCaine who had an outstanding reputation as an artist and for her skill in crafting unique jewelry. She was even featured in Essence Magazine on occasions.

Irvin and Barbara had three sons, Bevin, Eric, and Ron, all of whom are fabulously talented and have followed in their parents’ unique footprints for being independent free spirits. I love and respect all of them, but I will miss Irvin for the friendship and guidance which he provided not simply as a cousin, but as a close and dear friend, particularly during the years where I was growing up in New York. Irvin is also survived by his brother Renee McCaine and a host of grandchildren. Let us all celebrate Irvin’s life and his contributions which enriched the lives of those whom he knew and whose lives he touched.

You may view more of my photos from the event on the Facebook Page.

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Senator McKissick Receives Endorsement from SEANC

I was recently part of a group of candidates running for election or re-election to the NC Senate who were interviewed by a regional group of SEANC members. SEANC is an organization which represents and lobbies on behalf of state employees here in North Carolina. I learned today that I have been endorsed by my Area EMPAC Committee for re-election to the NC Senate. I would like to thank SEANC and its 50,000 members for their confidence and support of my candidacy. Whenever I go before SEANC for an interview, I can expect to be asked a series of thoughtful and thorough questions about the issues which impact the lives, work conditions, and compensation of current state employees as well as those who retired from state employment, this year was no exception. I would like to thank SEANC for its support in the past, but more importantly, I would like to thank them for being an effective and articulate voice for our state’s employees.

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Party Affiliation Must Be Shown for NC Supreme Court Candidates

Wake County Superior Court Judge Rules that Party Affiliation Must Be Shown for NC Supreme Court Candidates

Yesterday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Becky Holt overturned a law recently passed in a Special Session of the North Carolina General Assembly which prohibited the party affiliation of NC Supreme Court Candidates from being shown on this November’s ballot if the candidate had changed his/her party affiliation within 90 days of running for office. The Republican majority had passed this bill after they discovered there would be two Republicans running for a seat on the NC Supreme Court, and only one Democrat, Anita Earls.

Chris Anglin, a Republican, had brought a lawsuit to keep his Republican Party affiliation on the ballot as well as Rebecca Edwards, a Democrat who was running to become a District Court Judge in Wake County. The judge ruled that, as to these two candidates, that their party affiliations when they filed to run for office must appear on the ballot. I am gratified by Judge Holt’s decision even though I am sure that it is likely to be appealed to a higher court. I would like to state that before the Republican majority passed a bill eliminating judicial primaries, I pointed out in committee meetings and in debate on the Senate floor that they were opening up the door for having potentially multiple Republicans and multiple Democrats running for the same seats, but they did not seem to care much about it at that point when they thought it would be multiple Democrats running against only one Republican. I also argued against making judicial races partisan at all since we should always seek the best judges, regardless of party affiliation. Maybe my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will stop trying to write the rules simply to favor their candidates and the odds of them winning an election or changing the rules once they have been written simply to favor their candidates of choice.