Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Top Democrats call on Rep. Duane Hall to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations

The first time Rep. Duane Hall made Jessie White feel uncomfortable was in early 2016.

That’s when she says Hall, a nascent star in the North Carolina Democratic Party and a state representative, ran into her at the Anchor Bar in Raleigh.

Hall, 51, was looking for a new legislative aide for his office. White, a top campaign official with multiple Democratic candidates for the state legislature, said she spoke with the lawmaker about the vacancy.

“That’s when he said he wouldn’t hire me unless I gained 100 pounds,” she said. “Because I was too pretty.”

A charismatic politician with a lengthy list of connections among top North Carolina Democrats, Hall has risen since his 2013 election to wield significant influence as a member of the minority party in the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

But, behind the scenes, Hall has a reputation for more than his political prowess. Including White, five sources—some of whom requested not to be named for fear of repercussions in their current jobs—detailed persistent sexual innuendo from the three-term legislator and, in some cases, repeated, unwanted sexual overtures. Policy Watch knows the identity of the alleged victims, but has not published their names without their consent. [Read more…]

***Read more:

2. Hundreds pack hearing to keep North Carolina off-limits to offshore drilling

Of the hundreds of people who crammed into a public hearing Tuesday on offshore drilling, only a few veered into a small, quiet suite, where they would be served a buffet dinner and waited on by their personal bartender. The American Petroleum Institute, under the guise “Keep Exploring North Carolina,” held a low-key reception for about 20 drilling supporters, most of them decked out in suits or cocktail attire.

The shindig was hosted by API and Thom Goolsby, a former lawmaker from New Hanover County and a long time advocate for — and beneficiary of — the energy industry. However, Goolsby had no interest in speaking publicly about the cause that he champions.

He escorted Policy Watch from the room, saying, “This is a private event.”

Asked if he’d like to talk about offshore drilling, Goolsby replied, “Not really.” [Read more…]

3. North Carolina’s bail industry draws severe criticism from criminal justice experts

Brennan Aberle sees a lot of tough stuff over the course of his workday.

Working on behalf of indigent clients for the Guilford County Public Defender’s office, the 31-year old attorney averages around 200 clients at any given time, most facing mid-level felonies. Working with people facing jail time and too poor to pay for their own defense, there are a lot of casual tragedies to be observed.

“One of the most heartbreaking things I deal with, though, is when I have to go to a client and say, ‘I think you have a case, but realistically it could take months before the case is heard,’” Aberle said in an interview this week. “Because I know a lot of them will plead guilty just because they can’t afford to stay in jail that long – and they can’t afford bail.” [Read more…]

4. Who designed this crazy system?
Newly approved Duke Energy Progress rate hike highlights the downright strange way that most Americans are billed for utilities

The North Carolina Utilities Commission issued a ruling last Friday afternoon in one of the two big Duke Energy rate hike cases it has been considering. As Policy Watch Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg explained yesterday, the ruling in the Duke Energy Progress case will, for the most part, impact customers in eastern sections of the state who were once served by the now defunct Progress Energy (nee CP&L) before it became a part of Duke several years ago. A separate ruling is still yet to be handed down in the Duke Energy Carolinas case that will impact customers in the western part of the state. This is from Sorg’s story:

If for the one month you unplugged every appliance and electronic, unscrewed every light bulb, and forsook heat or air conditioning — living by candlelight, blankets or paper fans, and Sterno — you would still get an electric bill. You’ve used no power, but would have to pay Duke Energy Progress a $14 “basic charge” — the cost of maintaining the line, meter and other infrastructure to get electricity to your home. [Read more…]
5. Immigrant stories: ‘People can see who you are, not just who the news says you are’

Carolina Fonseca has always been a dreamer.

It’s not a term she came up with on her own, but it’s one that has been very relevant to her life. Fonseca’s parents brought her over from Mexico when she was a young girl and she lived many years as an undocumented immigrant and then as a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient before getting permanent residency.

“I will never forget the strength that they had to come here,” she said of her parents. “If times get tough for me or I feel like I can’t do something, I think about that strength that they had.” [Read more...]

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