The N&O has an interesting piece this morning on a rising number of kids who are attending school without getting necessary vaccinations, thanks to a broad religious exemption.

  • “The number of N.C. kindergarteners opting out of required childhood vaccinations on religious grounds more than doubled in the five school years from 2012 to 2016. And both public health officials and anti-vaccine advocates agree that the exemption is being claimed by parents whose true objection to the shots has nothing to do with faith.”
  • The more unvaccinated kids are in a school, of course, the more likely there is to be an outbreak.
  • “Since late November, Henderson County in Western North Carolina has seen 20 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, and has identified another 1,000 people who had close contact with one of the patients. The outbreak of the potentially fatal respiratory illness started in the schools, the county said, and most of those who have fallen ill had been immunized, demonstrating that vaccines are not 100 percent effective. Health officials say that without the vaccine, those who get the illness might be sicker longer.”
  • North Carolina offers two exemptions for vaccines: medical and religious. The first requires a doctor’s certification. Fewer than two hundred kids got this exemption between 2012 and 2016. The second is the religious exemption, which only requires a parent to write a statement “of the bona fide religious beliefs and opposition to the immunization requirements.” No attorney or religious leader, or even a form, is needed, and there’s no review process. Last year, more than two thousand kindergartners used this exemption to enter school without shots.
  • “If all those children remain in North Carolina schools and still have not been vaccinated, that means at least 6,416 students are now enrolled in kindergarten through fourth grade in the state who have not been immunized for religious reasons. Thousands more are likely still enrolled in higher grades who never got the required shots.”

WHAT IT MEANS: I have very little patience for the conspiracy-minded anti-vax crowd, which is encouraging parents to employ the religious exemption (and the N&O indulges a bit more than I think necessary). For the record, vaccines are a tremendous good to society, and no, they don’t cause autism, dummy. And for immune-compromised kids who can’t get vaccines, having other students around them who have been vaccinated lessens the chance that they’ll contract a fatal illness. To be blunt, refusing to vaccinate your kids on pseudo-religious grounds because you believe whatever nonsense read on the internet puts other children in danger and should not be allowed.


In recent years, the North Carolina General Assembly has taken a long, hard look at the state’s growing renewable energy sector and decided to essentially pull the rug out from under it, ending subsidies and enacting pointless restrictions. In its current tax bill, The New York Times reports, Republicans may follow suit:
  • “The Republican tax bills moving through Congress could significantly hobble the United States’ renewable energy industry because of a series of provisions that scale back incentives for wind and solar power while bolstering older energy sources like oil and gas production. The possibility highlights the degree to which the nation’s recent surge in renewable electricity generation is still sustained by favorable tax treatment, which has lowered the cost of solar and wind production while provoking the ire of fossil-fuel competitors seeking to weaken those tax preferences.”
  • “The tension between new and old energy was on display this week at a White House event to promote the Republican tax legislation, where a coal plant employee from North Dakota thanked President Trump for a provision in the House bill that would drastically reduce the value of the production tax credit for wind.”
  • It should go without saying that we subsidize renewable sources because they have much fewer external costs and are simply better for the health of the planet. But the oil and gas industry isn’t keen on that sort of thing.”
  • There are other unintended (I’m being generous) consequences to the tax-reform effort as well. The housing markets in the Northeast, California, and Chicago are likely to be decimated, and the Senate bill will shave about 3 percent off home prices in 2019 nationwide.
  • President Trump’s richest friends are telling him the bill could hurt his fellow wealthy New Yorkers: “Many of Trump’s friends have complained that a proposal in the House and Senate tax bills limiting the tax breaks people can claim would drive up taxes on people in New York. Specifically, they have raised concerns about new limitations on their ability to deduct state and local taxes.”

MEANWHILE: Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, who represents the Koch brothers, pushed to include in the bill a tax break for dark money organizations.
  • “With Republican megadonors like Charles Koch, 82, and his brother David, 77, advancing in age, a top GOP senator from the Kochs’ home state has proposed a special tax break for moguls who bequeath their riches to so-called ‘dark money’ groups that advocate for policies and bankroll lawmakers’ election ads. Though Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts’ proposal did not make it into the Senate-passed version of the tax bill, it could still be added by the conference committee that will write the final $1.4 trillion tax cut legislation.”
  • House conservatives have dismissed Senator Susan Collins’s efforts to soften the blow of repealing the individual mandate, wagering that they can do without her vote when the bill comes back before the Senate (which is probably true only if Roy Moore wins in Alabama): “Collins went along with the tax bill that repeals Obamacare’s individual mandate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to pass a pair of bills propping up Obamacare’s shaky insurance markets, including a bipartisan deal resuming payments on key subsidies that President Donald Trump halted in October. But Speaker Paul Ryan has made clear he’s not bound by the deal.”
  • The repeal of the individual mandate will cause thirteen million fewer people to have health coverage, including tens of thousands in the Triangle.

This post was excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.