Under the Dome

Legislators water down proposals on sea-level science

from staff reportsJune 30, 2012 

Since the House spurned a Senate proposal to put strict controls on the science of predicting how fast the seas will rise along North Carolina’s coast, legislators have been working on a compromise. They are preparing this week to consider a gentler but more complicated approach toward the same goal: slow down that scary forecast.

The state Coastal Resources Commission would be required to wait four years, until July 2016, before it authorizes any sea-level forecast to be used as the basis for coastal regulations, according to legislation worked out last week by a House-Senate conference committee. Scientists would be required to consider a sweeping range of views – including predictions that the sea level will fall – as they develop new forecasts.

It was the Coastal Resources Commission that asked a panel of scientists for a prediction that caused alarm among coastal economic development interests. In 2010, the panel urged North Carolina to prepared for a 39-inch rise in the sea level by 2100. Senate leaders and a coastal group called NC-20 favor a more conservative forecast – 8 inches – which is a straight-line projection of the slow rise that has been charted over the past half century.

The 39-inch forecast was built around a prediction that the annual rate of sea-level rise would curve upward toward the middle of this century, rising at a more rapid rate than in the past. The Senate proposed to outlaw any forecast that included this acceleration, insisting that growth projections must be based only on historic trends.

The CRC would ask its panel for a forecast update in 2015, and submit it to public comment for a year. The CRC panel scientists would not be barred from predicting an accelerated growth rate, but they would be required to consider a broad range of views.

The Senate was ridiculed by critics foreign and domestic – including British commentators and American TV satirist Stephen Colbert –for its attempt to quash the panel’s 39-inch prediction. The language was part of the Senate’s complete rewrite of more limited coastal legislation that had been passed by the House last year. The House bill sponsor was Rep. Pat McElraft, a Carteret County Republican, who said she expects the conferees’ proposed substitute to be taken up by the House and Senate Monday or Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey reports that the sea level is rising faster along the northern Atlantic Seaboard, from Cape Hatteras to Boston, than elsewhere in the world.

Hundreds rally against ruling

An overflow crowd of more than 300 in a ballroom at the Crabtree Marriott in Raleigh on Saturday rallied to begin a new phase of the fight against the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care plan that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld on Thursday.

The “Hands off My Healthcare” rally was co-sponsored by the Civitas Institute and Americans for Prosperity.

Attendees heard U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.; Jason Rink, executive director of the Foundation for a Free Society and the author of a book on Ron Paul; Jeanette Doran of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, and Dallas Woodhouse, state director of AFP.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is not the end of this health care battle,” Woodhouse in a news release. “Americans for Prosperity – North Carolina is committed to continuing the fight for real patient-centered reform instead of President Obama’s flawed, unaffordable, government-centered plan.”

The rally and phone bank was part of the instant assault against the Supreme Court ruling, which includes a $1 million TV ad buy in North Carolina. AFP says there is a $9 million campaign in North Carolina and about a dozen other states that includes advertising and grass-roots work.

Romney brings in new money

A line of thinking repeated countless times by political pundits during the buildup to the Supreme Court decision on “Obamacare” goes something like this: If the court upholds the controversial insurance mandate and other key provisions of the law, Mitt Romney gains both financially from new donors and from increased voter turnout by the Republican base this November.

That prophecy, at least in North Carolina, may be taking form.

More than a thousand donors raised $100,000-plus in the 24 hours since the court announced its decision to uphold most of the law on Wednesday, the campaign said. Nearly a thousand of those donations came from first-time financial supporters.

New super PAC forms

Keep your eyes on a new super PAC formed to support conservative candidates in North Carolina. Justice for All N.C. filed last month as a tax-exempt independent expenditure committee.

But just who it plans to support remains unknown. Organizers are still in the early stages and not ready to comment publicly, says Amy Ellis, the group’s treasurer.

Ellis is the sister of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Patrick Ballantine. She was also assistant treasurer with Vote for Marriage N.C., the group that spearheaded the successful Amendment One campaign against same-sex marriage in May.

Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to elect or defeat candidates, so long as they don’t coordinate their efforts with the campaigns.

Ellis is a certified public accountant with her own firm in Creedmoor.

Staff writers Bruce Siceloff, Craig Jarvis and Austin Baird

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