Commentary, News

1. Lawmakers move bill that would make it a felony offense for a student to assault a teacher

Students who assault teachers could soon face felony charges in North Carolina, according to a bill that was green-lighted by a Senate committee on Wednesday—despite concerns raised that under the proposed law, even minor infractions could result in a lifetime of lost opportunities for some of the state’s youth. “We’re having more serious [Continue Reading…]

2. The revealing 2015 Tax Day

Tax Day 2015 didn’t exactly turn out like state legislative leaders had planned. Instead of a flurry of news stories featuring people thrilled to find out that they are paying less in state taxes thanks to the alleged tax cuts passed by the General Assembly in 2013, many of the reports included comments from [Continue Reading…]

3.Audit found Medicaid owed $350 million, while DHHS officials said program had surplus

Lawmakers heard Monday that the state’s massive Medicaid program was in the hole at the end of last year’s fiscal year, despite prior statements by state health officials that the program finished that year with a surplus. The Medicaid program had $350 million in liabilities for 2013-14, not the surplus of $63.4 million [Continue Reading…]

4. Who asked for this?
Lawmakers disregard public opinion and the common good with anti-consumer bills

The process of crafting new laws in a state legislature can be a mysterious and confusing process a lot of the time—especially to average citizens who don’t have the time or capacity to follow along closely. Even for activists, it can often be difficult to keep up with the various players—much less their arguments and true motivations.[Continue Reading…]

5. Q&A with James Ford, 2014 NC Teacher of the Year

Garinger High School history teacher and North Carolina 2014 Teacher of the Year James Ford took a circuitous path to the teaching profession. He started out with the intention of becoming a journalist, then served as a truancy intervention specialist and then a director of a teen center. His love for working with [Continue Reading…]

News

The state House is expected to give final approval Monday to legislation that would make North Carolina’s judicial races partisan in 2016.

Rockingham County Rep. Bert Jones says clearly labeling candidates for the N.C. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court with their party affiliation will increase transparency.

Wake County Rep. Grier Martin told his colleagues the move would be a mistake.

Martin suggested voters could learn more valuable information by going online or researching the judicial candidates in available voter guides:

“I have never had a constituent come to me and say ‘What I want to see is more partisanship in judicial races.'” explained Rep. Martin. “And I’m very concerned if we go back to partisan judicial elections, we’re going to elect more judicial activists, both on the left and from the right.”

Legislators are also considering this session a bill that would make all locally elected school board races partisan.

One more vote in the NC House and HB 8 will move to the Senate. To listen to some of Thursday’s debate, click below:

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News

BOEMGovernor Pat McCrory reiterated his support for offshore drilling to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Wednesday. But McCrory told the congressional panel the federal government’s 50-mile imposed buffer zone “unnecessarily puts much of North Carolina’s most accessible undiscovered resources under lock and key.”

McCrory testified that the strict application of that buffer zone could place as much as 40% of North Carolina’s potential offshore energy reserves “out of play”:

NCPW-CC-2015-04-07-oil-rig-flickr-tsuda-CC-BY-SA-2-0-150x150‘I urge the BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)to reduce the proposed coastal buffer zone off the North Carolina coast. A reduced buffer would keep North Carolina’s coast land ocean activities undisturbed, maintain the view from our 320 miles of ocean beaches and shoreline, protect marine life and preserve the availability of potential resources.’

 

Gov. McCrory told the subcommittee while he respects those who may disagree with his position, he believes there is “widespread support” across North Carolina for offshore leasing, exploration and development.

Click here to read McCrory’s full statement, including his position on revenue sharing.

News

On a voice vote, members of the House Judiciary I committee gave the first approval Wednesday to a piece of legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a one-year restricted driving permit.

Rep. Harry Warren of  Rowan County says the legislation has nothing to do with immigration, and would establish a more uniform system of ID cards for the law enforcement community.

Critics said House Bill 328 (the Highway Safety/Citizens Protection Act) is a step toward amnesty, warning lawmakers that constituents would voice their opposition in the next election cycle.

Fred Baggett with the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police spoke in favor of the bill noting that a standard form of identification would be useful to officers statewide.

The bill would need the approval of the House Finance Committee before heading to the House floor.

To learn about other restrictions and what it takes to actually obtain 12-month permit, read HB 328. To listen to some of Wednesday’s committee meeting, click on the video below.

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News
Ash-fill

Duke Energy photo of coal ash being used in a structural fill project.

Lee County residents and concerned citizens packed the Dennis Wicker Civic Center in Sanford Monday night to voice their opposition to plans that would allow Duke Energy to move up to 20 million tons of coal ash to landfills in Lee and Chatham counties.

While Duke Energy says proven technology will ensure that ash is stored safely, those in the audience were less than reassured. Here’s more from the speakers, as reported by the Fayetteville Observer:

 

There were 40 people who spoke during the two-hour hearing, which attracted about 200 people. All of the speakers opposed the proposed permits.

“I am scared to death,” said Shawn Moore, a resident of Lee County. He said he is concerned the coal ash could contaminate his water supply and the land, where he maintains a garden and greenhouse, and hunts wild game.

“I think it is ridiculous that y’all want to dump this in my backyard,” he said.

The audience erupted in applause after his comments, as it did for almost every other speaker.

 

Therese Vick taped a sign that read “local official” to her back, placed a piece of duct tape with “Duke” written on it over her mouth and stood at the microphone for three minutes.

Nick Wood rejected the permits and then read a poem about the affects of pollution.

Lorna Chafe stated her objection, then joined four friends – they call themselves the Triangle Raging Grannies – to sing a song about Duke Energy’s plan.

“They’ll dump it in baggies and declare it contained, but common sense tells us that this is insane,” they sang. “If the water is safe, then here’s what you should do, invite Duke’s bosses to have a glass or two.”

Debbie Hall, who wore a “Keep NC Frack Free” T shirt, said she had concerns with how the coal ash dumps would affect air quality and the possibility of the liners leaking.

“The bullying of this community and the social injustice of the location of this dump is not accepted by us and we hope you won’t accept it. I hope and pray you will not accept these permits.”

Want to have your say?

On Thursday DENR will host a second public hearing from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Chatham County Historic Courthouse, 9 Hillsboro Street, Pittsboro. Written comments will be also accepted through May 16th at: Solid Waste Permitting, N.C. Division of Waste Management,1646 Mail Service Center,Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1646.

You can learn more about Duke Energy’s coal ash management plans here.