Commentary, News


604-chart1. Out-of-state leadership of North Carolina charters raises red flags

The N.C. State Board of Education may be set to approve a policy limiting out-of-state leadership in North Carolina charter school boards as soon as next month, but some, including state board Chairman Bill Cobey, say the new provision might not go far enough.

Members of the state board—which is granted broad oversight powers for North Carolina’s 151 public charter schools—received a policy proposal from their Charter School Advisory Board last week that they require a majority of members on any charter’s governing board maintain their primary residence in North Carolina.

Given the growth of national charter school networks, such as the Challenge Foundation—a national group that funds a pair of schools, accounting for nearly 11 percent of the student population, in rural Rutherford County — proponents say it’s essential to maintain some local control over charters. [Continue reading...]

wb-208-20162. Pope-funded group pushes proposal to guarantee government gridlock
So-called “REINS Act” would pose grave threat to consumers, environment, public health and safety

With all of the damage the political Right has done to the public services and structures of North Carolina over the past five years, some observers may be of the impression that the worst is over.

Think again.

If these folks get their way the Tea Party revolution is just getting underway.

The latest volley in this destructive war on all things public was fired last week at a legislative study committee meeting in Raleigh at which representatives of a local “think tank” funded by conservative financier Art Pope advanced the enormously destructive idea of enacting something with the tortured and Orwellian title “Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act” or “REINS” for short. [Continue reading…]

ff-211-Trump3. Trump is a symptom in North Carolina not just a candidate

Listen to many of the conservative pundits around the country and in North Carolina these days and you’d think Donald Trump appeared out of nowhere to storm to the front of the Republican presidential primary field with his rhetoric about immigrants and Muslims and women that traditional Republican leaders say they find offensive.

Trump has called for a ban on Muslims travelling to the United States, a suggestion that North Carolina Senator Richard Burr called a bad mistake that would be harmful for national security.

When Trump announced his bid for president last summer he railed against immigrants from Mexico that he said included murderers and rapists.

Those comments ignited a firestorm of protest that led to television networks announcing they would no longer air beauty contests that Trump presents, ESPN shifting a golf tournament away from a Trump golf course and NASCAR moving its banquet away from a Trump-owned property. [Continue reading…] Read More


The state Supreme Court has denied the request by challengers of the 2011 voting maps for a rehearing of the Court’s December opinion upholding, for a second time, those maps as constitutional.

The ruling puts the state court challenge back on a U.S. Supreme Court trajectory — with a petition for review likely to be filed there soon.

A separate federal challenge to Congressional Districts 1 and 12 is already before the high court on the state’s request for an emergency stay of a three-judge’s ruling last Friday invalidating Congressional Districts 1 and 12 as unconstitutionally drawn and requiring lawmakers to draw up a new congressional plan by February 19.

A third action is also pending in federal court, challenging state legislative districts, and is set for trial in April.

The court’s order is below.

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Commentary, News

Governor Pat McCrory told a gathering in Winston-Salem Thursday that North Carolina has the  best university system in the country, but “facilities in our universities that are embarrassing.

The Governor is working to drum-up support for the the $2 billion Connect NC bond package that will be on the ballot in March.

The bulk of that money will go to higher education — $980 million for the UNC system, and $350 million for North Carolina’s Community Colleges.

Dr. Stephen Scott, president of Wake Tech Community College, joins NC Policy Watch this weekend on News & Views to discuss the need for the bond initiative.

With more than 70,000 students stretched across five campuses, Scott says the money is needed to improve technology and renovate many aged buildings.

Click below to hear President Scott discuss the Connect NC bond with Chris Fitzsimon.

Also make time to read: Yes to invest and not just in buildings

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Moral March on RaleighAs was explained here earlier this week, there are lots of excellent reasons to bundle up and head to downtown Raleigh tomorrow morning. In today’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer, however, Charles van der Horst, a retired Professor of Medicine at UNC, highlights what may well be the single most important reason: to save thousands of lives by demanding that state leaders expand close the Medicaid gap by accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage.

Here’s Dr. van der Horst:

“On Saturday, I am rising early with other health care workers and students to carpool and bus to Raleigh, where we’ll march once again down Jones Street for some old fashioned rabble-rousing.

Since the ACA started, 31 states and DC have expanded Medicaid. Ten states led by conservative Republicans, initially vehemently opposed to Medicaid expansion, have reversed course. In three states where Republicans subsequently won governorship, they elected to continue the expansion. Two Republican-led states are in discussion to expand.

These leaders came to their senses when they realized the benefits in savings, the jobs created, the federal dollars flowing to their states instead of away, and the help to their citizens. When that many Republican governors and legislatures have expanded Medicaid, it is difficult to understand why McCrory, Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore have ignored the economic and health benefits to the state.”

And here is the excellent conclusion:

“With two years of data available, the health benefits of expanding Medicaid are clear. In states that did not expand Medicaid, rural hospitals have been closing as they could no longer afford to provide free care. From 2010 to 2015, 57 rural hospitals closed, 42 of them – including three in North Carolina – in states that did not expand Medicaid. Rich or poor, it is nice to have a hospital close when your heart stops beating.

Medicaid expansion also allows for more preventive medicine. The governor and legislature have adopted the concept of penny wise, pound foolish. From blood pressure control to cholesterol and diabetes care, the cost of treatment for complications far exceeds that of prevention.

In April the legislature reconvenes. They should listen to the health care workers across the state and lift the block on Medicaid expansion.”


fenn3Another prominent North Carolinian  was arrested for carrying a gun where federal law prohibits them yesterday. Last year, an NC State trustee was arrested for trying to carry a concealed weapon into the U.S. Capitol. Yesterday, it was the former head of the UNC Board of Governors. As the Charlotte Observer reported:

“Charlotte lawyer John Fennebresque, the former UNC Board of Governors chairman, was arrested Thursday after authorities found a small handgun in his briefcase as he passed through a security checkpoint at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers arrested Fennebresque at 10 a.m. at checkpoint B, charging him with misdemeanor possession of a firearm on city property, CMPD and Mecklenburg County jail records show.

He was released on $500 bail, according to the records.

Reached by the Observer later Thursday, Fennebresque said he didn’t know the gun was in the briefcase. ‘It was an honest, stupid mistake,’ he said.”

We’ll take Fennebresque at his word on that, but whatever the explanation, the matter serves to highlight a huge and disturbing flaw in the argument of Second Amendment absolutists. The problem with the spread of guns into every nook and cranny of the country is that they are under the control of human beings. And as the Fennebresque incident demonstrates, even highly responsible and prominent people with licenses to carry guns make idiotic mistakes — especially when guns become so ubiquitous and accepted that they begin to be treated as little different than one’s keys or smart phone.

Obviously, there are vital reasons why people are not allowed to take guns onto airplanes (do the numbers 9-11 ring any bells?) You’d think someone of Fennebresque’s stature and intelligence would have enough of a clue not to do something so outrageous.

But, of course, the fact of the matter is that humans do all sorts of incredibly stupid things everyday and a great many humans — including many who have guns — are even dumber and less responsible than John Fennebresque. This is one of the reason why so many American children die each year playing with their parents’ loaded guns.

Fennebresque, himself, put it this way:

“I am told this happens a lot – that there are thousands of members of the idiot club around the country.”

He’s right about that.

In other words, try as they will to convince us that tens of millions of killing machines in the hands of tens of millions flawed human beings is a recipe for safety and freedom in our country, the truth of the matter is just the opposite. And John Fennebresque is just the latest in a long line of  exhibits confirming this hard truth.