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The week’s Top Stories on NC Policy Watch

1. PW exclusive: Documents reveal years of illegal dumping near Falls Lake

Complex rules, poor coordination by regulators have allowed a single property owner to put Raleigh’s water supply in harm’s way

First, the land suffocating under 40 feet of dirt and construction trash was to become a horse pasture.

But no horses ever arrived.

Then, the man responsible for the dumping said he planned to put a house there.

But no house was ever built.

Then, the man said, there would be crops.

But no crops were ever planted.

Instead, for more than three years John Russell Stoutt III, already notorious among state environmental regulators for previous violations, illegally accepted hundreds of tons of debris, including plastic, rebar and unknown materials, including some from the state Department of Transportation, on his property near Falls Lake.

Falls Lake, which straddles Durham and Wake counties, is classified as a critical area by the state because it serves as the major drinking water supply for the city of Raleigh. [Read more….]

2. NC Democrats press Republicans to move on gun laws after recent mass shootings

State Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), flanked by fellow Democratic lawmakers, implored Republican members on Tuesday to join them in taking action on two gun bills that have been languishing in committee since they were introduced early in the 2019 legislative session.

Morey said the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton underscore once again the need for North Carolina lawmakers to take steps that could avert a similar tragedy in this state.

The lawmakers highlighted two bills, in particular.

House Bill 454 (Allow ERPOs to Save Lives & Prevent Suicides) would allow family members and law enforcement officers to report first-hand knowledge of warning signs and petition a court for an ERPO, a temporary revocation of a person’s firearm(s). The bill was introduced on March 26 and sent to the House Judiciary Committee on March 27, where it has resided ever since. [Read more…]

3. Tuesdays with Tillis group asks for Voting Rights Act restoration on 54th anniversary

Today marks the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a measure that, until six years ago, was considered to be one of the most powerful civil rights laws in the country.

The document protected voters from all types of discrimination, but in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a pre-clearance section that required states with a history of voter disenfranchisement to get approval from the federal government before changing their voting laws.

In the aftermath of the Shelby v. Holder decision, voter suppression laws cropped up across the country, including in North Carolina, where a voter ID law was ruled so racially discriminatory by a federal court that it was struck down altogether. [Read more…]

4. In a nation beset by massacres, there’s only one side to be on

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

I have nothing particularly new, trenchant or poignant to say on our great, intractable gun debate, the latest slew of firearm massacres or our bigoted president’s dangerous rhetoric.

My past thoughts on the numbing frequency of mass shootings and guns are here, here and here. And I haven’t made a secret of how I feel about Donald Trump’s fitness for office or what he says about immigrants and others who don’t fit in his MAGA vision.

Rather, I would have you think about Jordan and Andre Anchondo, heading to the Walmart in El Paso with their 2-month-old baby to buy school supplies and party decorations for their children, one of those mundane moments we all take for granted in our daily lives, preparing for something else, looking forward to a coming happy occasion. [Read more…]

5. NC leaders demonstrate right and wrong ways to deal with #MeToo issues

One of the more hopeful developments to take flower in American culture during the Trump era is the #MeToo movement. While women have been calling out and resisting predatory and inappropriate behavior by men since the beginning of time, there’s no denying that the emergence of Trump – that paragon of misogyny, sexism, malignant narcissism and exploitative inequality – has provided a huge injection of life into the movement.

From the high energy women’s marches that sprang up almost spontaneously at the time of Trump’s inauguration, to the promising growth in the number of female political candidates nationwide, to the sudden and long overdue demise of the “boys will be boys” defense when it comes to claims of predatory or boorish male behavior, the change has been obvious and inspiring.

Unfortunately, for all of the progress we’ve been witness to, there’s still a very long way to go. This is especially evident in the world of politics where many leaders have gotten the message, but many others have not.[Read more…]

6. Bipartisan group of former governors calls on court to ‘root out’ partisan gerrymandering

A bipartisan group of former North Carolina governors filed a court document today asking the three-judge panel in a partisan gerrymandering to root out the destructive practice.

The governors who filed the amicus brief are James B. Hunt Jr., who served from 1977 to 1984 and again from 1993 to 2000; James G. Martin, who served from 1985 to 1992; Michael F. Easley, who served from 2001 to 2008; and Beverly E. Perdue, who served from 2009 to 2012. Martin is a Republican and the others are Democrats. [Read more…]

7. Despite opposition, California congresswoman stands firm in bid to rename Lejeune High School to honor the late Walter B. Jones

A California congresswoman is not deterred by the groundswell of opposition to her bid to rename Lejeune High School in honor of the late North Carolina congressman Walter Jones.

A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat who represents parts of San Mateo and San Francisco, said there are no plans to withdraw the amendment to the national defense bill to rename the school after Jones.

“It’s still headed to conference with the Senate,” the spokesperson said. “And the office has received a lot of supportive calls and emails for adding the late-Rep. Jones’ name to the school’s names as well.”

Speier, chairman of the House Armed Service Personnel Subcommittee, is the lone sponsor of the amendment to rename the school after the longtime Republican lawmaker from Eastern North Carolina who died in February.

She and Jones became friends while working on numerous national defense issues and ways to improve the lives of men and women serving in the military.

Lejeune High alumni and others who support the school are appreciative of the work Jones did serving Eastern North Carolina, but they’ve made it clear they don’t want the name of the school changed. [Read more…]

8. Ousted elections board chair heading search for next UNC System President

The search for the next UNC system president has a new leader — and for North Carolina politicos, it’s a familiar name.

Kim Strach, the former executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, was announced as director of the UNC System Presidential Search Committee late last week.

Strach was controversially ousted from her position with the board of elections in May in a 3-2 party line vote. The board’s two Republicans argued for keeping Strach, who had served the board of elections for 19 years and worked as its executive director since 2013.

The UNC System Presidential Search Committee, created by the GOP dominated UNC Board of Governors, has hired Strach for $15,000 a month — a bump from the just over $110,000 she made as executive director of the state board of elections.

“Kim is the perfect choice to serve as director, due to her outstanding record of professional service of nearly two decades at the N.C. State Board of Elections, her integrity and her exemplary professional reputation,” said committee co-chairs Randy Ramsey and Wendy Murphy in a joint statement on the hire. [Read more…]

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