Commentary, News

The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. PW exclusive: Experts question business dealings of UNC Board of Governors member

Thom Goolsby, a former North Carolina state Senator now serving on the UNC Board of Governors, is running an “online financial education” company that might run afoul of a state order barring him from the financial services industry, a Policy Watch investigation has found.

Two securities law experts who have examined the business’ offerings at Policy Watch’s request say Goolsby could be violating the spirit – and potentially the letter – of the order, issued in April 2014 by the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State.

“It certainly has the aroma that he’s gone beyond the consent decree in terms of what he’s offering to people who donate to this,” said Tom Hazen, a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor with expertise in corporate, securities and commodities law.[Read more…]

2. NC’s Mark Meadows out as head of Freedom Caucus


Future of once-powerful congressional group in question as “Trump whisperer” takes his leave

Once called the “most powerful man in the House,” North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows is stepping down from his perch atop the conservative U.S. House Freedom Caucus after nearly three years as its chairman.

The move comes as the once-powerful Freedom Caucus has been forced to change its tactics on Capitol Hill. Republicans lost the House majority this year and no longer set the agenda in the lower chamber of Congress. The caucus that spent years pushing GOP leadership to the right is now fighting the Democratic majority and gearing up for 2020. [Read more…]

3. Doing the math on Duke Energy’s “climate strategy” — and its campaign contributions

Duke Energy calls its new net-zero carbon emissions plan a “directional beacon,” but for critics of the utility, the proposal is blind to the drivers of climate change.

Tuesday’s announcement from the energy titan offered no hard-and-fast numbers in which to hold the utility accountable, stating only that by 2050, Duke will have phased out coal. The company will still use natural gas. The utility also said it “hopes to have a new set of generation resources that are low- to no-carbon. These include new nuclear technologies, longer-lasting energy storage and other options we haven’t even considered yet.”

But the utility’s plan ignores an inevitable increase in methane — a potent greenhouse gas even more destructive than carbon dioxide — from an increased use of natural gas. Nor does the plan address how the utility will offset a projected 5.5 million tons in additional carbon emissions each year from just two of its natural gas plants. [Read more…]

4. Private religious school receives state voucher money despite teaching homosexuality is a sin

In the western part of the state, the “Citizen Times” reports that a conservative religious school that receives a third of Buncombe County’s opportunity scholarship money teaches students that homosexuality is a sin.

Temple Baptist School in West Asheville is also dismissive of the theory of evolution, the paper reports. It opts to evangelize about Young Earth creationism, which contends Earth is no more than 10,000 years old.

Here’s how Brian Washburn, the administrator at Temple Baptist, explained the school’s approach to those subjects.

“What we do is based on the Bible as our foundation,” Washburn told the “Citizen Times.” “So that’s going to influence our approach to teaching all of our subject areas. [Read more…]

5. NC’s late summer political turmoil undermines democracy

The confluence of three essentially unprecedented events combined to make last week an extraordinary one in the modern history of North Carolina policy and politics.

On Tuesday, the state conducted a special election to choose 15% of its delegation to the U.S House of Representatives. Under normal circumstances, such an event and its aftermath would have dominated the news cycle all week – especially given that one of the two districts had been the subject of intense national scrutiny ever since rampant ballot fraud tainted the 2018 vote. [Read more…]

Not last week. [Read more…]

6. ‘A perfect synergy:’ Attorneys behind UNC Center for Civil Rights merge with national group

Civil rights litigation isn’t always about securing a win in court – sometimes there is a deeper reclamation that comes from fighting for what’s right alongside others who care about the cause.

That was evident Sept. 12 as racial and social justice advocates from across the state gathered to celebrate the work of Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix, the former heads of the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

After UNC fired the two attorneys in December 2017 and banned the Center for Civil Rights from taking legal action on behalf of its poor and minority clients, Dorosin and Haddix moved their work to the newly-launched Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights and continued working from Haddix’s home.

After seeking a partnership to expand their resources and advance their work, in July, they united with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a national nonprofit that, since 1963, has worked to address inequities for Black Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. [Read more…]

7. Does money matter in public education? Let us count the ways.

Powerful new research confirms numerous benefits of substantially increasing public investments

For decades, a debate raged in education policy circles: does money matter? While this question has definitively been answered by academics, it will undoubtedly be the subject of heated debate over the next year in North Carolina.

In June, court-appointed consultants submitted a much-anticipated report detailing how North Carolina can meet its constitutional requirement to provide a “sound, basic education” to all students. For the time being, the report – part of the longstanding Leandro court case – remains confidential. But most observers anticipate the report will recommend that the state substantially boost its investment in public schools. [Read more…]

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