Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

education-budget-4001. A reversal of fortune?

Governor’s budget writers backtrack on 2% reduction for public schools; education advocates suggest tight re-election battle may be the motivating factor

North Carolina officials say they have been assured by one of Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget chiefs that a controversial directive to ready a $173 million budget cut will not apply to the state’s public schools.

The seeming reversal comes after Policy Watch’s report last month that all state departments, including the public schools, were called on by McCrory’s budget director to submit 2 percent budget reduction proposals for the state’s 2017-2019 biennial budget, a move that prompted a swift and angry rebuke for McCrory’s office from top education officials and public school advocates. [Continue reading...]

***Bonus read: Preliminary teacher pay data show NC teacher salaries fall short of $50,000

wb-altered2. Altered beyond recognition?
The conservative remake of North Carolina at the six-year mark

A year ago, the staff of NC Policy Watch released a special report on the conservative policy revolution that has overtaken our state during the current decade entitled Altered state: How 5 years of conservative rule have redefined North Carolina.

The report explored how this shift has played out in several key areas, including the social safety net, access to healthcare, fiscal policy, K-12 and higher education, environmental protection, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, and the criminal justice system. It also explained how conservatives have done their utmost to engineer a takeover of the state judicial system in order to cement the shift and blunt court challenges that might slow things down. [Continue reading...]

***Bonus read: McCrory’s top N.C. economic development officials at odds about damage from HB2

voting-line23. Election watchdogs worry voter intimidation could depress turnout

Long early voting lines and a particularly contentious presidential election have led to incidents of voter intimidation and confrontations at voting sites across the state, say voter protection organizations and election directors.

Some amount of that happens in every election cycle, said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. But this year is a bit more intense.

“Is it more than we’ve seen in the past?” said Earls Tuesday. “Yes. I can’t remember this type of intimidation happening during early voting. That was always a quiet period.” [Continue reading…]

justices-4004. The men and the money behind North Carolina’s State Supreme Court race
How do you keep the North Carolina Supreme Court race nonpartisan when the ideological makeup of the bench hangs in the balance?

There’s not really an answer, especially this year, when so much is at stake and big outside money wants a say.

The ballot won’t disclose Incumbent Justice Bob Edmunds’ or his opponent Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan’s respective political parties, but it’s no secret that the former is supported by the Republican Party and the latter by the Democratic Party.

Conservatives currently hold a 4-3 majority on the court and the Edmunds’ seat is the only one up for election this year, prompting many observers to consider this race one of the most important contests on the ballot this election cycle.

Political party committees have spent more than $38,000 combined on their candidates, but that doesn’t even come close to the close to $2.2 million groups operating independently of the campaigns have spent. [Continue reading...]

wnc-brian-stansberry-creati5.While the planet warms, North Carolina tries to unplug the Clean Power Plan

The drought in parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains is so deep that leaf-watching, an annual ritual for thousands of tourists, has become instead an exercise in branch-watching. There is some color, sure, but stressed by the extremely dry weather, poplar, birch and cherry trees prematurely lost their leaves in late September.

All of western North Carolina, an area including 1.3 million people, has earned its place in the record books as having one of the five driest falls on record. Cherokee, Clay, Macon and Transylvania counties are experiencing an extreme drought, and if a dry winter ensues, as forecast, it could be classified as exceptional.

Meanwhile, the eastern part of the state, still healing from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, is experiencing one of that region’s five wettest falls in recorded weather history, according to state climate data.

Extreme weather conditions — more intense floods, wildfires, storms and droughts — are symptomatic of a warming planet. No longer an abstract concern for our as yet unconceived great-grandchildren, climate change is happening now, and it’s not a diabolical plot by the sun. [Continue reading…]

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