Commentary, News

This week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. Lawsuit seeks to restore voting rights to North Carolinians with felonies, strike down ‘Jim Crow era’ law

Dennis Gaddy missed out on the opportunity to elect the nation’s first African-American president because of his criminal record, despite re-entering society, paying taxes, taking care of his children and being a responsible and respected citizen.

After losing the right to vote for seven years, he’s now a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the statute that took away that “sacred” right, even after he served his time and “fully returned to society.”

The statute, enacted in 1971, continues to make it illegal for any person convicted of a felony to vote if they are still on probation or parole.

[Read more…]

2. The GOP’s latest gerrymander ought to be the last straw for NC

Republican legislative majorities took yet another stab at enacting new congressional districts last week (the state constitution gives the Governor no veto authority in this realm) and, for those who didn’t dig below the surface, it would have been easy to get the misimpression from some reports that things had gone well.

Raleigh’s News & Observer featured the headline: “Democrats could pick up seats in Congress under proposed North Carolina map.” NPR went with “Democrats Could Gain At Least 2 House Seats Under New N.C. Redistricting Plan.” The Washington Post headline read: “Democrats would likely gain two seats under new congressional map approved by North Carolina legislature.”

Now add to the mix the fact that these news stories were running at more or less the same time as other reports detailing the state Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a recent legislative overhaul of state Senate and House maps, and it would be unsurprising if many North Carolinians had come to the conclusion that the state’s chronically broken redistricting process had finally, mercifully, been repaired.

Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth. [Read more…]

** BONUS READ: Court stops Congressional candidate filing pending gerrymandering litigation

3. Rep. Foxx skipped most closed-door impeachment proceedings

WASHINGTON — North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, a senior member on one of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, has skipped the vast majority of closed-door impeachment depositions.

An analysis of the 15 closed-door deposition transcripts that have been released by House lawmakers shows that Foxx wasn’t listed as present at any of those proceedings. The transcripts from two additional depositions still haven’t been released.

As a member of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee, Foxx was among the 47 Republicans who had access to the depositions. She and Republican Rep. Mark Meadows — a staunch Trump ally who also sits on the oversight panel — are the only two North Carolina lawmakers who had access to the proceedings. [Read more…]

4. How NC’s broken politics made a disaster of Medicaid again

Tuesday’s inevitable announcement of a delay in North Carolina’s Medicaid transformation is an unqualified disaster.

We will labor over who to blame. Republicans will castigate Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who vetoed the “mini-budget” funding transformation in August.

And Cooper will lambast the Republican state legislature, because of its dogmatic and, frankly, dimwitted refusal to accept a mostly federally-funded expansion of the government healthcare program, which should not be confused with Medicaid transformation.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen, a Cooper appointee, acknowledged the drawbacks of indefinitely postponing the transformation to a managed care system, in which the state pays per-person costs rather than the current fee-for-service model.

If the delay impacts patients is unclear. It certainly affects patients far less than the legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid.  [Read more…]

5. Investigation: Gov. Cooper didn’t benefit from pipeline fund, but “improperly used his authority” to strike a deal

A top advisor to Gov. Roy Cooper allegedly told a Duke Energy lobbyist that Cooper, not Secretary of the Environment Michael Regan, would make the final decision on a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, according to an investigative summary released today.

Investigators with Eagle Intel based the information in part on a text message from Duke Energy lobbyist Kathy Hawkins to the utility’s CEO Lynn Good. In that text, Hawkins reportedly wrote that Ken Eudy, the governor’s senior advisor, had informed her of who would approve or deny the permit.

“That’s a key point,” Eagle Intel officials told state lawmakers Wednesday afternoon at a meeting of the joint governmental operations commission.

Hawkins’ account of Eudy’s comment is puzzling because Regan does not make permitting decisions. Those duties fall to DEQ division directors who personally sign the permits. It’s unclear from the investigators’ documents if Eudy knew that.

These details, many of them contradictory, are spread over hundreds of pages of exhibits provided on Wednesday by Eagle Intel to lawmakers. [Read more…]


**The Atlantic Coast Pipeline investigation: Much ado about … something?
**SELC plans to sue Burlington over PFAS, 1,4-Dioxane pollution in drinking water, sludge

6. As the UNC Board of Governors turns: Members go silent as concerns about Fetzer mount

Members of the UNC Board of Governors have largely gone silent on the recent controversy surrounding the resignation of East Carolina University’s former interim chancellor. But the board is not yet done dealing with the investigation into a night of drinking and alleged drunk driving by the former chancellor and board member Tom Fetzer’s own secret investigation into and behind-the-scenes moves on the matter, sources said this week.

Several board members and UNC system staffers close to the matter spoke to Policy Watch in the last week on the condition of not being identified. They made the request so they could describe personnel and legal matters discussed in closed session. The members described a board bracing for possible lawsuits over the matter, a push for Fetzer’s resignation and/or the possibility of removing him from the board.

Whether that is possible is, so far, unclear. But Fetzer has been removed as board liaison to ECU.

The move came late last month as the private tensions over his actions boiled over into letters from the UNC general counsel aimed at the lawyer Fetzer hired to aid his rogue investigation. [Read more…]

7. A 1960’s population control organization rebranded in 2002. Now it’s recruiting UNC students.

Organization does good work to promote reproductive freedom, but it should disclose and disavow its troubling past and connections.

Population Connection is the largest grassroots population organization in the United States, with over 40,000 members. In 2018, it celebrated its 50th anniversary. When it was founded in 1968, however, it had a different name – and very different goals.

Dr. Paul Ehrlich, a biologist at Stanford University and author of the influential but controversial 1968 book The Population Bomb, founded Zero Population Growth (ZPG) with lawyer Richard Bowers and entomologist Charles Remington. Ehrlich’s inspiration for the organization and his book was a trip he and his family took to the Indian city of Delhi in 1966. The book opens with his account of this trip… [Read more…]

8. Weekly Radio Interviews and Micro-podcasts:

Click here to listen to this week’s newsmaker interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield.


9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

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