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This week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

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1. Meeting Gov. Cooper’s climate change mandate will take more than just turning out the lights. It will require a new way of thinking.

About five years ago, before the public widely knew that the world’s greenhouse gas emissions were tipping the climate over the point of no return, Alex Johnson, Durham’s urban forester, was weighing what trees to plant to replace the mass die-off of the city’s willow oaks. Those oaks, planted around the same time more than 80 years ago, were reaching the end of their natural lifespan at the same time. But Johnson knew that climate change would alter what species could survive protracted droughts, flash flooding and hotter summers.

Although at the time Durham lay within Hardiness Zone 7b, Johnson said, it might be more prudent to replant for Hardiness Zone 8 — a warmer climate. [Read more…]

** BONUS READS:

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2. GOP wants to shield investigations from public scrutiny; Cooper won’t go along

Governor calls on lawmakers to “fix” elections bill that would expand secrecy

“Democracy dies in darkness” isn’t a new phrase but it’s certainly one that has gotten a lot of attention during the Trump era. North Carolina Republicans, though, are apparently working from a different playbook, and they want to shut the lights off completely.

House Bill 1029, which is currently sitting on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk, would make all State Board of Elections investigations confidential, effectively shutting the door to any public scrutiny, particularly when it comes to campaign finance violations. [Read more…]

**BONUS READ: Lawsuit filed as soon as voter ID becomes law in NC

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3. Documents: Federal prosecutors knew of Bladen County voting allegations, but took no action

Voting rights advocates say GOP priorities drove Trump appointee to ignore allegations, focus resources elsewhere

The State Board of Elections compiled evidence and interviews detailing a systematic ballot fraud operation in Bladen County two years ago, well before the current controversy that seems likely to force a new election in the 9th Congressional District race.

The board forwarded their information and a detailed summary to state and federal prosecutors, according to 278 pages on multiple investigations released by the state board this week.

No prosecutions resulted. [Read more…]

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4. In District 9, investigators should heed the truth, not the clock

Hope you made a wish on that shooting star.

I’m talking about that fleeting moment last week, when Democrats and reluctant Republicans seemed to agree on the need for a new election in North Carolina’s mud-varnished 9th Congressional District.

The Earth shook and the seas parted as politicos from both parties appeared to join hands, perhaps taking in the gathering evidence that a Republican operative may have hacked our election apparatus, piloting an alleged spider web of a get-out-the-vote campaign or perhaps more appropriately, a get-the-vote-out campaign, accused of illegally handling – or, worst-case scenario, destroying – thousands of absentee ballots. [Read more…]

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5. The GOP’s cynical electoral game playing rolls on

One can imagine a scenario in which it might be possible to take North Carolina Republican leaders seriously when they argue that a strict voter ID law is necessary to protect the “integrity” of North Carolina elections. If, for instance, those same leaders had long evinced support for rigorous integrity and transparency in all other key electoral circumstances – say, with respect to the way voting districts are drawn and the ways in which investigations of electoral and campaign finance malfeasance are conducted – the demands for voter ID would ring a lot less hollow.

To be clear, they would still be wrong; strict voter ID will not, ultimately, enhance the integrity of our elections. But at least Republicans and their conservative ideological allies could have maintained a colorable claim of intellectual honesty and consistency. [Read more…]

**BONUS READ: Trump’s biggest con job? Last year’s tax cuts have been an economic dud in North Carolina

6. This week’s editorial cartoon:

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