Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

ScoolSuspension1. Black students significantly more likely to face suspension in North Carolina
Some question if racial bias behind alarming new numbers

“We’re in a state of emergency when it comes to education.”

N.C. Rep. Garland Pierce, a Democrat from Scotland County and the chairman of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, insists he’s not overstating the crisis for black students in North Carolina today.

Not after last week’s report from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which showed—once again—staggeringly high suspension rates for North Carolina’s black students.

That report, which prompted a brief but bristling response from a handful of members on the N.C. State Board of Education last week, points to a trend of disproportionate disciplinary practices in the state’s schools, advocates like Pierce say, and with little evidence that the state has a firm plan for addressing the disparity. [Continue reading…]

RESTROOMS-4002. Gender identity or birth sex? Appeals court weighs transgender rights in public accommodations
Debate comes as NC legislators seek to flush Charlotte’s LGBT protections

Conservative lawmakers in Raleigh have sounded the alarms in recent weeks over a Charlotte city ordinance extending discrimination protections to transgender individuals, including their rights to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity — claiming a need to protect children from sexual predators.

They’ve vowed to act quickly to nullify that ordinance through legislation of their own, in special session if necessary, and if recent history holds true, someone will then ask a court to overturn that legislative response.

That’s already happening in federal court in Virginia, where a student has challenged a school board policy excluding transgender individuals from using bathrooms that don’t align with their birth gender. [Continue reading…]

Bonus read: Senate leader: I want to use the bathroom with Caitlyn Jenner too

wb-308C3. The presidential primary carnival comes to North Carolina
Campaign spurs high emotions, but mostly ignores local issues

For those who harbor any doubts about how wacky and illogical the American presidential primary season has become, what’s happening this week in North Carolina ought to dispel them.

Indeed, it’s actually quite appropriate that Donald Trump’s appearance in Cabarrus County yesterday featured an endorsement by NASCAR boss Brian France and former driver Mark Martin, because the campaign itself has come to resemble the NASCAR circuit. Each week, campaign “teams” trailed by caravans of fans, journalists and hangers on descend on new “markets,” bombarding them with ads and loads of ear splitting sound and fury before wrapping it up with a contest on the final day and then departing before light the next morning.

It’s also not unlike a carnival or state fair as each weekly spectacle features barkers, performers, schlocky sales scammers, freak shows and “rides” that leave customers back where they started (and, often, slightly nauseous). [Continue reading…]

solarBee24. The wasted money and wasted time of the SolarBee experiment

Here is some troubling but hardly unexpected news about the solar powered water mixer boondoggle approved by the 2013 General Assembly to avoid implementing common sense water quality rules to protect Jordan Lake.

It doesn’t work.

An interim report released last year showed the so called SolarBees that were somehow supposed to reduce algae blooms in the lake merely by mixing the water up weren’t working at all, but that didn’t stop the General Assembly last year from throwing good taxpayer money after bad and spending another $1.5 million on top of the $1.3 million spent on the SolarBees in 2013. There was also talk of expanding the program to Falls Lake too.

Supporters of the scheme said it was too early to tell if the mixers were cleaning up the lake and asked for more time and money. But the latest report from the Division of Environmental Quality makes it clear that more time hasn’t helped. [Continue reading…]

chooselife5. Appeals Court holds “Choose Life” license plates are government speech

In a 2-1 decision today, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling and held that North Carolina’s “Choose Life” license plate constituted government speech not subject to First Amendment scrutiny.

The court had previously ruled in 2014 that the state’s offering of a “Choose Life” plate while rejecting an alternative pro-choice plate constituted unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. That decision was premised upon a finding that specialty plates in North Carolina were a mix of government and private speech and thus implicated the First Amendment neutrality protections accorded to private speech.

The state then appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a similar Texas case was also pending. [Continue reading…]

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