The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Coal ash debate takes center stage as Duke rate hike cases get underway

The Dobbs Building hearing room was so stuffed with dark suits and shiny calfskin shoes that it resembled a Brooks Brothers warehouse.

“Are there any North Carolina lawyers who aren’t here?” asked Ed Finley, chairman of the NC Utilities Commission, as he prepared to preside over what is predicted to be a two-week slog: the Duke Energy Progress rate case.

Duke Energy Progress (DEP), whose service territory includes 170,000 miles of transmission lines in North Carolina is asking the commission to approve a nine percent overall rate hike, which includes an 11.7 percent increase for residential customers. The service area includes the cities of Asheville, Raleigh and Wilmington.

That increase equates to about $13 on a typical household electric bill. [Read more…]

2. Two decades later, Governor’s appointees look to breathe life into NC’s landmark school funding ruling

“By every objective measure, we are underfunded and we are failing.”

That’s how Larry Armstrong, longtime attorney for the Halifax County Board of Education, summed up the task before Gov. Roy Cooper’s Commission on Access to Sound, Basic Education Thursday—more than two decades after the pivotal Leandro Supreme Court decision rebuked the state for school funding inequalities in some of North Carolina’s poorest counties like Halifax.

Armstrong, along with many members of Cooper’s panel of business, K-12, higher education and charity leaders, said, that despite that 1997 ruling, North Carolina continues to fail students in poor and struggling districts.

Armstrong addressed the 19-member panel during its first meeting Thursday, which comes weeks before a judge is expected to field recommendations for an independent consultant that will determine what state officials must do to bring North Carolina in compliance with Leandro’s mandate of a “sound, basic education” to all, regardless of a student’s local school district. [Read more…]

3. Damming the swamp
Could this be the Trump administration’s most outrageous act yet?

The list of execrable actions taken by President Donald Trump during his first ten months in office is a long and deeply disturbing one. Even if one sticks strictly to policy actions and appointments and sets aside the President’s serial personal dishonesty and the criminal behavior in which he and multiple senior administration officials may have engaged, it’s still been a horror show.

Time after time, Trump has taken action that will enfeeble and delegitimize the federal government and enrich himself and his cronies while directly harming people of modest income – many of whom, tragically, make up the core of his political base.

In just the last few weeks, for instance, the President has:[Read more…]

4.  Board of Governors may consider moving UNC system offices out of Chapel Hill

In the last few months the UNC Board of Governors has proposed a lot of controversial moves for the university system.

One of the latest might be the most perplexing – even to members of the board itself.

The proposal: move the entire UNC General Administration out of its traditional home on the Chapel Hill campus.

The reason: Well…it’s complicated.

The UNC General Administration consists of about 265 UNC system staff members with an annual budget of $65.4 million. They report to UNC System president Margaret Spellings and are responsible for a wide range of duties, including long-range planning, research, legal and student affairs, financial management, government relations and administrative oversight of things like the UNC Press and UNC-TV. [Read more…]

5. Lawmakers who slashed state environmental protection efforts weigh reversing course over GenX

Chemours has stopped discharging all wastewater from its manufacturing processes at its Fayetteville Works plant, a ban that will become permanent as a condition of the company’s new permit.

Assistant Secretary of the Environment Sheila Holman told the the House Select Committee on River Quality yesterday that department staff were visiting the plant to ensure the company complied with the order. The Department of Environmental Quality had taken enforcement action — a civil penalty should be announced by mid-December — because Chemours failed to report a spill of GenX for more than a month.
Rep. Ted Davis

In addition to hearing updates on water and air emissions from the plant, Chairman Rep. Ted Davis announced that the committee would unveil legislation at its next meeting on January 4. The public will also be invited to comment at that meeting. [Read more...]

Bonus read: Special master releases proposed state legislative maps

Upcoming event: Join us on Tuesday for our next Crucial Conversation – The national immigration debate in the era of Trump: Where do things stand? What will happen next?

Few subjects spark more passionate debate in 21st Century America than immigration policy. Even as President Donald Trump and his allies adhere to their divisive and destructive stances, millions upon millions of caring and thinking Americans are rising to the challenge and pushing back in favor of just, humane and economically beneficial policies.

One of the leading voices in promoting laws, policies, and attitudes that honor our proud history as a nation of immigrants is the Washington, DC-based American Immigration Council. Join us on Tuesday December 5, as we welcome AIC Executive Director Beth Werlin to North Carolina and hear her update on (and assessment of) the immigration battles in Washington.

Click here to register

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