News

2020 Women’s March rally this weekend in Raleigh

This Sunday, thousands of women are expected to march and rally on Halifax mall and around the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh.

In addition to organizing and focusing on select social issues, participants will rally around the right to vote and shifting the direction of our democracy.

The “2020 Raleigh Women’s March: Women Protecting the Future” began in response to the 2016 election.

Women Mobilize NC 2020 pledge:

…to defend and support communities under attack including women, immigrants, working families, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, Jews, refugees, & people with disabilities and indigenous people; to fight attempts to institute a Muslim ban and to reject Islamophobia; to oppose the attacks on the transgender community; to support #MeToo, holding people accountable for sexual assault, violence against women, and supporting survivors; to work for equal access to voting and voting rights, including challenging gerrymandering and voter suppression and disenfranchisement tactics, as well as supporting hand counted paper ballots and verified vote; to support living wages, affordable health care, abortion, reproductive health care, paid family & sick leave child care, adequately funded public education, and common sense gun regulations; to support investment in our public schools, health care, safety, and infrastructure, and opposing unfair taxes; to work to protect our air, water, and land; to oppose racially biased policing & mass incarceration, and deportations that tear apart families; to support DREAMers and fight for DACA.

Community groups taking part in this weekend’s event include: Read more

News, public health

Must watch documentary on the troubling rise in NC youth suicides premieres Thursday

North Carolina’s teen suicide rate has doubled in the past decade. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of deaths among children ages 10-17 in our state.

It’s a troubling fact that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

This Thursday, WRAL-TV will premiere its latest documentary on the subject in which a young woman shares her own story of overcoming depression, anxiety and an attempted suicide while highlighting the lessons she learned along the way.

Clay Johnson, the documentary’s producer, recently sat down with NC Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield to preview “Out of the Darkness”:

The documentary “Out of the Darkness” premieres on WRAL-TV as well as its web and streaming platforms this Thursday, January 23 at 7 p.m.

For more on this topic, be sure to listen to our recent interview with Michelle Hughes, Executive Director of NC Child, in which we discussed what policymakers should do to address the crisis.

For those who may be seeking help, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Commentary, Courts & the Law, News

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

Commentary:
1. Make no mistake. The budget failed because Republicans failed to compromise.

There is a temptation—and believe me, I understand it—to celebrate the fleeting nature of this week’s special session of the North Carolina state legislature as some sort of coup.

Resist that temptation, even if the sight of an ostensibly frustrated Phil Berger is a new one to these tired eyes.

Berger and his compatriots in the Republican caucus enjoyed near unchecked power in the last decade. A post-Obama surge of conservatives played a modest part in that, although the gerrymandering did its part too. [Read more…]

2. Pipelines, roads and railways: This is why you should care about Trump’s rollback of NEPA, a key environmental law

By the time the new Interstate 885 opens in Durham later this year, some of the people who conceived of the original project will have been long dead.

In the works for 60 years, the East End Connector, as Durhamites call it, funnels traffic over four miles from NC 147 to US 70 and onto I-85, to reduce congestion on surface streets.

But environmental laws did not slow-walk the project. In fact, when the highway was first conceived in the early 1960s, there was no EPA. There was no Clean Water Act, no Clean Air Act. There was no NEPA — National Environmental Policy Act. All those laws were passed in the 1970s. [Read more…]

3. NC’s new “Raise the Age” law appears to be off to a promising start

New facilities and policies offer hope to 16 and 17 year-olds once consigned to the adult corrections system

Tall trees and a rocky, woodsy landscape envelop the C.A. Dillon juvenile detention campus in Butner. Save for the tall metal fence that rings the confinement building, the area could be mistaken for a summer camp or private school grounds.

The feeling that greets the visitor of wanting to go for a group hike or play flag football with old pals quickly diminishes inside, however, as the smell of fresh paint permeates the building and barred windows and concrete walls remind you that this isn’t a fun trip away from home. But it won’t be like that forever – after all, this isn’t jail.[Read more…]

4. State lawmaker’s failure to disclose business ties highlights broader ethics enforcement problem

State Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) failed to disclose a business owned and operated by her husband on state Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms for several years, according to documents reviewed by Policy Watch.

In North Carolina, public officials are required to disclose connections to all non-publicly owned companies by which they or their immediate family members are employed or in which they have an interest.

Grange’s husband, David Grange, registered his “consulting” business Osprey at Compass Pointe LLC with the state Secretary of State’s office in July 2015. Yet the business did not appear on Grange’s SEI form in 2016, when she was first appointed to a state House seat to replace incumbent Rick Catlin. She ran unopposed for the seat in that year’s election. Rep. Grange also did not list the business on her SEI forms in 2017 or 2018. In February 2018, the business was administratively dissolved by the Secretary of State’s office for failure to file an annual report. [Read more…] Read more

News

One of the longest serving members of the state House will be the newest member in the state Senate

Former state Rep. Mickey Michaux

Mickey Michaux, who was first encouraged to run for political office by Martin Luther King Jr., retired from the NC House in 2018 after four decades of service.

On Sunday, Durham County Democrats selected Michaux to return to the General Assembly and fill the seat in the NC Senate being vacated by Senator Floyd McKissick.

McKissick made his resignation official last week as he moves on to take a seat on the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

Governor Roy Cooper is expected to quickly approve of the Democrats’ choice and appoint Michaux to the Senate seat ahead of the Tuesday’s opening day of the legislative session. The 89-year-old Michaux will then finish out McKissick’s term.

Among the first to welcome Michaux back to the legislature was Durham Senator Mike Woodard:

Gray Ellis, Pierce Freelon and Natalie Murdock will face off in the March primary with hopes of holding the seat after this year’s short-session.

Commentary, News

The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. Flower to the people: NC law enforcement, prosecutors say not so fast


North Carolina law enforcement officials and prosecutors are getting blunt about their position on smokable hemp: it looks like weed, it smells like weed and officers can’t tell it apart from weed, so ban it.

“Since smokable hemp and marijuana are indistinguishable by appearance and odor, without enactment of legislation clearly banning smokable hemp, we will have de facto legalization of marijuana,” states a joint press release from North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, the NC Conference of District Attorneys, the NC Association of Chiefs of Police and the NC State Bureau of Investigation.

The organizations are urging lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 315, the North Carolina Farm Act of 2019, as soon as possible so law enforcement, prosecutors, licensed farmers and the public “clearly know what hemp substances are lawful and unlawful.” [Read more…]

2. What to do about pollution from “forever chemicals”?


State and federal officials are starting to act, but proposed rules and standards take time and vary widely

Toxic PFAS — perfluorinated compounds — are known as “forever chemicals” because they persist in the human body and the environment for decades, if not hundreds of years.

It also takes forever to pass permanent environmental standards regulating them.

North Carolina plans to enact stronger rules for one type of PFAS, also known as —perfluorinated compounds — toxic chemicals that are widespread not only statewide but throughout the world. But people living in affected areas say the proposal is too weak. [Read more…]

3. UNC student newspaper files suit alleging Silent Sam settlement violates open meetings law

The DTH Media Corporation, the non-profit that operates UNC-Chapel Hill’s Daily Tar Heel student newspaper, has sued the UNC Board of Governors over the controversial Silent Sam settlement.

The suit, filed Tuesday, alleges that the board violated North Carolina Open Meetings Law in the way it approved the $2.5 million deal with the Sons of Confederate veterans, which also included a $74,999 payment to assure that the group would not use Confederate flags in on-campus protests. [Read more…]

Bonus read: Attorney Hugh Stevens: UNC Board of Governors “egregiously and constantly” violated law

4. State Superintendent Mark Johnson is prepared to sign another emergency contract for Istation if legal issues aren’t resolved by March

State Superintendent Mark Johnson said Wednesday that he’s prepared to sign another emergency contract with Isation if the legal issues over the state’s K-3 reading assessment tool isn’t resolved by the end of March.

“We are hopeful to have resolution to these circumstances by that time,” Johnson said. “If we don’t, we can take it up then. This is definitely not something that we view as a contract that you could get all the way through the school year with unless the process is ongoing.”

Johnson made his remarks during a telephone conference call with the State Board of Education (SBE). He was in Washington D.C., on N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) business.[Read more…]

5. Greed and instant gratification rule the day: The Right abandons traditional conservatism for values and policies it once rejected

It’s nothing new when political movements and parties undergo fundamental transformations. Think about it: in the middle of the 20th Century, the Democratic Party – particularly in the South – was, despite its occasional willingness to use government as a societal problem solver, the party of segregation and racism. Longtime Alabama governor and segregationist George Wallace started out as a Democrat. Jesse Helms did too.

And, of course, the Republican Party – the party that today garners microscopic support from people of color – was once widely understood to be “the party of Lincoln.” Prior to the New Deal era, Black voters (where and when they were permitted to vote) overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates. [Read more…]

6. How Trump’s lies may cost him during the Iran saga

President Donald Trump (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Although he torches norms like a 10-year-old cooks bugs beneath a magnifying glass, Donald Trump is not the first American president to be compromised. In wartime, peacetime, or whatever it is we are calling this incendiary moment.

As the journalist Eric Alterman explained in his 2004 autopsy of executive mendacity, “When Presidents Lie,” FDR lied in Yalta, Kennedy lied in Cuba, LBJ lied in the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon lied in Watergate, Reagan lied in Iran, Bush lied in Iraq, Clinton lied over his affairs, and—if there is currently oxygen in the room where he is standing—Donald Trump is probably lying to someone right now. [Read more…]

7. Friday Follies: Lawmakers head back to Raleigh, Mark Johnson doubles down and some new huffing and puffing about hemp

Lawmakers return to Raleigh to do…well…something…maybe

The North Carolina General Assembly takes the latest step in its ongoing transition to a de facto fulltime legislature next week. Less than two months after having vacated the capital for the holiday season, lawmakers will return to Raleigh on Tuesday for a session of indeterminate length and indeterminate subject matter.

News reports in recent days have speculated that the session may be brief – just a day or two or three – and deal with relatively low-profile topics like scholarships for the children of veterans and compliance with federal tax changes. Then again, rumors also persist that Senate Republicans will make a run at overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s nearly-seven-month-old budget veto – if they can convince a Democrat or two to develop a conflict that keeps them away from Raleigh, or perhaps even to abandon the Governor. [Read more…]

8. Weekly interviews and commentaries with Rob Schofield (podcasts)

Click here to listen.

9. Editorial Cartoon: Birthday greetings from the shameless senator