N.C. GOP uses dirty tactics to nip clean energy



It's ironic that members of the same party that accuses President Barack Obama of being a dictator are themselves acting like power-mad potentates.

For the most flagrant disregard for the democratic process, we go to the N.C. Senate, where Finance Committee chairman Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenberg) added measures to a bill without notice, banned any debate on those measures and refused a show-of-hands vote on the bill.

When the voice vote clearly went against him, he ignored reality and declared the bill had passed.

If you've been following this legislative session, you won't be surprised to learn that the measures in question concerned renewable energy.

A faction of the Republican Party led by Rep. Mike Hager (R-Rutherford), a former Duke Energy executive, has waged nothing less than a war on renewable energy for several years.

And if they can't win fairly, they just subvert or change the rules.

Earlier this month, Hager pulled a fast one in the N.C. House to get a freeze on renewable energy standards into a regulatory bill after the same measures were killed in committee.

At Hager's request, Rucho added without notice the same measures to HB 332, now being considered in the Senate, then banned any debate on that portion of the bill.

Rucho then denied a request from Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake) for a vote count rather than a voice vote on the bill. Under Senate rules, Rucho should have honored the request, but he declined, citing his prerogative as committee chairman.

Although the "nos" were louder than the "ayes," Rucho declared the bill had passed and adjourned the session.

This single-minded determination of certain Republican lawmakers to kill solar and other clean-energy sources makes it crystal clear that they are following the playbook of groups like Americans For Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council — and not the people they were elected to represent.

Worse is their wanton abuse of power. If legislators are no longer required to follow the rules set down by their governing bodies, we no longer have a democracy.

Idea Slam celebrates Startup Day

In case you missed it, Wallethub.com named Greensboro as the ninth-best U.S. city in which to start a business. That's not surprising, given the wealth of resources in the city now devoted to startups and entrepreneurs.

The Greensboro Partnership, which is responsible for many of those efforts, marked last Wednesday as Startup Day and celebrated with a special Idea Slam at CoLab, one of the most recent support services for budding businesses.

An idea slam allows people to pitch a business idea and get immediate feedback. Idea Slams bear real fruit, said Joel Bennett, program director of the Greensboro Partnership's Entrepreneur Connection. In three years of monthly idea slams, 30 to 40 percent of those who've pitched ideas have launched businesses.

Some of those at Wednesday's Idea Slam were graduates of the Triad Startup Lab, which helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into businesses.

Scott Silknitter was pitching a spin-off of his already successful startup, R.O.S. Therapy Services, which offers engagement products and training for long-term caregivers. Mark Dirks was looking to launch GAFusion, a platform that connects Google analytics with in store sales to produce better marketing research. Charles Wade is gearing up to launch RoboMustache, an adorable, build-it-yourself, wooden robot kit.

Audience members, which included peers and experts, asked questions and made suggestions. Given the excitement and synergy in that session, it's easy to see why Greensboro is becoming an engine of entrepreneurship.

Contact Susan Ladd at (336) 373-7006 or susan. ladd @news-record.com and follow her at www.facebook.com/susankladd and @susanladdNR on Twitter.

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