Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Merit or maps? Judges’ futures could come down to clashing legislative proposals
Senate favors form of merit selection for judges as alternative to House judicial redistricting bill

The fate of judicial selection in North Carolina may come down to a clash between the House and Senate.

The N.C. Association of District Court Judges was presented last Friday with a potential “alternative” to judicial redistricting – a merit selection plan with which Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger is testing the waters.

The nonprofit organization hired lobbyists Chuck Neely and Rick Zechini, both of Williams Mullen, earlier this month and Neely brought Berger’s chief of staff Jim Blaine to a meeting of the group’s board of governors last Friday to discuss merit selection.

It’s the first time the judges had been approached about the process, which would require a constitutional amendment and approval from North Carolina voters. [Read more…]

*** Bonus read: Lawmakers announce 7 public hearing locations for input on new proposed, but still secret, legislative maps

2. Americans want the Affordable Care Act improved not undermined

Here is something you probably haven’t heard much lately, if at all, given the shocking news from Charlottesville and the disturbing reaction by President Trump.

Roughly 80 percent of Americans believe that Trump and his administration should do all they can to make the Affordable Care Act work while only 17 percent believe they should try to make the law fail so they can replace it.

The numbers come from a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation that also found that even more than half of the supporters of President Trump want him to do what he can to make the law work.

That hasn’t stopped Republican members of Congress from continuing to push for repeal of the ACA or to continue to misrepresent the bill they supported earlier this summer to allegedly replace it. [Read more…]

3. The thing that wouldn’t leave
Lawmakers to return to Raleigh yet again; agenda may include dangerous “de-reg” proposal

The North Carolina General Assembly will return to Raleigh yet again this week. Despite abysmal poll numbers, the toxic national political environment and their close association with a president of the United States who continues to set new standards for mendacity and outrageous behavior, legislative leaders will commence yet another special session on Friday to take up any number of matters that could include gubernatorial vetoes, new legislative maps, pending legislation from the “long session” that adjourned in June and maybe even constitutional amendments. Despite the Friday-at-noon start time, actual legislative action is not expected to get underway in earnest until next week – emphasis on the word expected.

That members of the general public (and even close observers) have only a general idea of what might be on the legislative agenda is, of course, par for the course these days.[Read more…]

4. People rally in Durham to support activists in toppling of confederate statues
More than 100 people rallied outside the Durham County magistrate’s office Thursday morning, calling for the county to drop charges against activists who toppled a Confederate statue Monday.

Three activists for whom the sheriff’s office had outstanding warrants related to Monday’s protest turned themselves in Thursday. Dozens symbolically lined up to take responsibility for the toppling of the statue in solidarity but were not arrested or booked.

Among those who were booked Thursday were Aaron Caldwell, 24, of Raleigh and Elena Everett, 37, of Durham. The name of the third activist charged could not be immediately confirmed early Thursday.

Later in the day, Taylor Alexander Jun Cook, 24, also turned himself over to  Durham County Sheriff’s Office. [Read more…]
***Bonus read:
Senate President: Governor “reactionary” in call to remove Confederate monuments, legislature unlikely to repeal 2015 law

***Bonus audio interview: Dr. Michael Bitzer: Trump’s”baffling” remarks requires GOP to take a stand against “repugnant” racism

5. DEQ had GenX info under Secretary Donald van der Vaart; under Michael Regan, delay attributed to scheduling conflicts

Donald van der Vaart, former Department of Environmental Quality secretary, was in charge when state officials first learned last fall there could be a problem with GenX in the Lower Cape Fear River. And the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority knew even earlier.

But not until June of this year, when the Star-News in Wilmington reviewed and reported on the study, did DEQ under the current administration begin to investigate the presence of GenX in drinking water.

According to a letter sent Aug. 14 from DEQ and the Health and Human Services department to  Sen. Bill Cook, and copied to the Senate and House leadership, in November 2016, “the previous administration” received a research report from the EPA and NC State University scientists regarding the Cape Fear watershed. This study, conducted in part by NC State professor Detlaf Knappe, showed GenX was present in the Lower Cape Fear and in untreated water at the Cape Fear utility. [Read more…]

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