Commentary, News

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

ff-810-voterid1. McCrory’s determined efforts to make it harder for certain people to vote

After listening to Gov. Pat McCrory talk about the recent decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn much of the voter suppression law he signed in 2013 you are left with only two explanations.

Either he hasn’t read the decision himself or he has read it and isn’t troubled by the startling evidence it cited to throw out the law.

The decision said that legislative leaders, emboldened by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, asked for a “breakdown by race of DMV-issued ID ownership, absentee voting, early voting, same-day registration, and provisional voting (which includes out-of-precinct voting).” [Continue reading…]

5722. State Rep. Larry Hall wants SBI to pursue Gov. McCrory, put staff under oath

A leading House Democrat has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the actions of Pat McCrory, and may pursue other legal avenues to learn what the governor knew about drinking water advisories and coal ash.

At a news conference Monday, House Democratic leader Larry Hall of Durham called for the SBI to investigate McCrory’s potential involvement in changing language on health advisories sent to well owners whose water was contaminated by the chemicals Chromium 6 and vanadium, both byproducts of coal ash.

Last week, McCrory alleged through his chief of staff that state toxicologist Ken Rudo lied under oath when he said the governor was on a phone call when that issue was discussed.

“If McCrory thinks that Rudo is not telling the truth, then let him [McCrory] put someone under oath,” Hall told NCPW Tuesday. [Continue reading…]

***Bonus read: Residents affected by coal ash contamination call for resignation of Tom Reeder, Randall Williams

***Bonus video: Rep. Pricey Harrison coal ash, well water scandal and the public’s trust

Education3. IRS says N.C. Department of Public Instruction owes nearly $250,000 in back taxes

Officials with the IRS say the North Carolina agency that oversees the state’s public schools owes the federal government almost $250,000 in back taxes, according to an IRS letter obtained by Policy Watch this week.

The letter, which was dated July 12 for the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI), centers around an ongoing dispute between state and federal officials over whether advisers, contractors and even members of key boards such as the State Board of Education be considered employees of DPI, in which case their wages would be subject to certain federal tax provisions.

The IRS review is limited to the 2014 tax year, although the agency has the option of examining additional years, potentially expanding the state’s tax obligation. Still, DPI Chief Financial Officer Philip Price indicated to Policy Watch Thursday that he believes the state will be able to whittle down its financial blow.

“We don’t expect it to stay at that level,” said Price. [Continue reading…]

Gerrymandering4. The path to reviving our democracy
Three essential steps to reform and restore faith in North Carolina elections

With the climax of the mostly unpleasant and conflict-ridden 2016 election cycle just 90 days away, many North Carolinians are feeling rather cynical and disillusioned these days. Some would attribute this to a presidential race that has been frequently dispiriting and even frightening, but legislative elections are also a big part of the story. Despite the widespread view that elected representatives are performing poorly – polls show the popularity of Congress and the General Assembly hovering in the single digits – voters also understand how hamstrung they are when it comes to effecting meaningful electoral changes.

They may not grasp all of the details or mechanics of how the current situation came to be, but North Carolinians rightfully perceive that the electoral system is – especially when it comes to legislative elections – rigged. In the majority of districts, the decisions about who will actually serve in Congress and the General Assembly in 2017 have already been made. Gerrymandered maps and campaign finance laws that protect the power and secrecy of the super-rich guarantee this. [Continue reading…]

Moss-Lake-4005. House Speaker Tim Moore’s recent $1.5 million pet project could directly benefit campaign treasurer, contributors

On June 27, state lawmakers were in the throes of hashing out the 2016-17 budget, when tucked on page 182, a new line item appeared, as if by magic: a $1.5 million grant for water and sewer upgrades and dam repair at John H. Moss Reservoir in Cleveland County.

Such an appropriation sounds neither sexy nor controversial. That is, until it’s revealed that the item was inserted in the budget during a final conference committee hearing at the end of the session. No previous versions of the Senate or House budget include it.

And that Moss Reservoir, also known as Moss Lake, is in Kings Mountain, home of House Speaker Tim Moore.

And that his campaign treasurer; a campaign volunteer, and at least four campaign contributors live on or near the lake. [Continue reading…]

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