Commentary, News

This week’s top five stories on NC Policy Watch

Merrick Garland1. Obama nominates Merrick Garland as next Supreme Court Justice
President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the open slot on the U.S. Supreme Court is 63-year-old Merrick Garland, currently Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The President made his announcement Wednesday morning from the Rose Garden, setting off a battle with Republicans in the U.S. Senate, most of whom have vowed to block any of Obama’s nominees, arguing that the selection to replace deceased Justice Antonin Scalia should be left to the next president.

Here’s Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Arizona who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee just this morning: [Continue reading…]

Bonus reads:

Burr, Tillis take to social media to dismiss Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee
The case for considering Supreme Court nominee Garland is overwhelming

Keep calm2. Staying calm and focused in a raucous election year
Keeping perspective, commitment to peaceful change the best path for progressives

In a 1947 speech in the British House of Commons, Winston Churchill famously and correctly observed that “it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

Messy, disorganized and inefficient as it is, democratic government is one of the best things that humans have come up with in the 50,000 years or so since they started living together in civilized societies. Try as we might to come up with new systems or to recycle old ones, the merits of peaceful, participatory elections and governance keep rising to the top — especially when married to a robust set of civil and human rights. [Continue reading…]

School grades3. Panel of educators, activists pan N.C.’s system of grading schools

North Carolina’s controversial method of grading its schools—which includes dishing out “D” or “F” grades to designated “low-performing schools”—failed to find a single defender at a forum of educators, lobbyists and activists Monday night in Raleigh.

The meeting, led by the Public School Forum of N.C., a research and policy group in Raleigh, centered on identification of low-performing schools, a system that hinges heavily on test scores.

Most who spoke Monday said the formula should focus more on student growth in test scores, so as not to unfairly penalize schools with a challenging student body.

Currently, 80 percent of a school’s performance grade is determined by test scores. The remaining 20 percent keys upon students’ academic growth. [Continue reading…]

Erica L. #24. Equality advocates to lawmakers: Please don’t legislate in favor of hate and discrimination

A group of human and civil rights advocates gathered in front of the state Legislative Building this morning to plead with state lawmakers and Governor McCrory not to try and override the nondiscrimination ordinance adopted by the city of Charlotte.

As we have reported previously, conservative legislators are threatening to call a special session of the General Assembly prior to next month’s scheduled return in order to take precisely such action. The explanation for the action: the professed (and illusory) concern that the law’s guarantee of access to public restrooms for transgender people will somehow serve as an invitation for male sexual predators to enter women’s restrooms. [Continue reading…]

Water pollution5. McCrory administration’s reversal on drinking water safety near coal ash sites raises questions, concerns

Residents are right to be skeptical of the state’s sudden claims that their water has been safe all along
North Carolina officials owe residents and local officials in Lee County an apology, and they owe every North Carolinian an explanation.
Over the past month, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services have walked back their own recommendation that families in Lee County not drink or cook using water from wells with carcinogens that exceed their own standards.

The water is now safe, they say, and it always has been.

Last November, private wells within a half-mile of open-pit clay mines in the county were tested to collect baseline data. Duke Energy plans to move more than 7 million tons of coal ash from sites in Lumberton and Goldsboro and dispose of it in the abandoned Lee County clay mines. [Continue reading…]

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