News

If you weren’t able to attend NC Policy Watch’s Crucial Conversation with Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Sierra Weaver, that full program is now available online.

Weaver discusses who is behind the plans for drilling for oil and gas off the  Mid- and South Atlantic coasts, and what the public can do to have their voices heard.

Please watch and then share this special presentation:

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Commentary, News

1. New NC teacher of the year says dismantling the Teaching Fellows program one of biggest mistakes made in public education

Ashe County High School English teacher and newly minted North Carolina Teacher of the Year Keana Triplett is also a graduate of the highly praised yet now abolished NC Teaching Fellows program – and she says the program’s dismantling is one of the single biggest mistakes ever made in public education.

“The Teaching Fellows program has made that much of a difference in my career,” said Triplett in an interview with N.C. Policy Watch. “I would not be the teacher I am today were it not for the Teaching Fellows program.” [Continue Reading...]

2. Thousands of seniors anxiously await lawmakers’ budget decisions

When state lawmakers return next week from their unusual spring break, debate over the budget will take center stage as the House puts together its spending plan for the next two years. Most of the public discussion of the budget focuses on teacher and state employee pay, education funding, Medicaid, and business incentives.

The $21 billion plan will also include hundreds of spending decisions that seem small in comparison to the big ticket items but that directly affect the lives of tens of thousands of people, especially low-income families and other vulnerable populations, children, people with mental illness or a disabilities, and seniors.[Continue Reading…]

3. Twelve lousy ideas
The worst proposals thus far in the 2015 legislative session

North Carolina lawmakers treated themselves and everyone else to a spring break this week. Committee meetings and floor votes were suspended and most lawmakers stayed away from the capital city.

In many ways, it was kind of a fitting dead spot in what has been a strange, start-and-stop session. As lawmakers near the midway point of the legislative year, the list of significant accomplishments is a very short one. And while this is a fact that many will see as a great improvement over recent years in which the flood of radically regressive proposals came on like a torrent, the overall lack of purpose that afflicts the General Assembly speaks volumes about what government looks like when many of the people in charge reject the idea of intentional, public solutions to the problems and challenges that confront society.[Continue Reading…]

4. Proposed wage garnishment bill would damage families, fan bankruptcies

The nation is finally and slowly emerging from the Great Recession – a period during which delinquency rates on consumer debts were five times higher than the rates during the previous five years. Simply put, many North Carolinians could not pay their debts because of lost jobs and fast-declining home values.

The result, not surprisingly, has been an explosion in lawsuits, especially by large national debt buying outfits that specialize in purchasing bad debts from the original creditors for pennies on the dollar and then trying to collect whatever they can.

The balance between the rights of these giant creditors to seize property from debtors and the rights of the debtors to keep property necessary to provide for their families is a delicate one. Those who have the ability to pay debts ought to do so. But, when confronted with the choice of paying a consumer debt like a credit card bill or providing for a family’s needs, family should come first. Unfortunately, the ability to put families first has been placed in jeopardy by the introduction of a wage garnishment proposal in the North Carolina Senate (Senate Bill 632) by Sen. Andrew Brock.[Continue Reading…]

5. The growing momentum for tuition equity

Why forces opposed to helping immigrant kids find themselves increasingly isolated The recent and encouraging national progress in resisting efforts to discriminate against LGBT Americans feels very much as if it is reaching the proverbial “tipping point.” Just a few years back, even genuinely progressive politicians were tiptoeing gingerly around the issue.
Today, corporate bosses, sports league czars and even NASCAR leaders, for heaven’s sake, are making it quite clear that they want nothing to do with the forces of discrimination and exclusion.

Some days, it feels almost as if a giant national closet door has been thrust open and that light is quickly spreading into areas long shrouded in darkness. Suddenly, millions of people who lived fearful, second class existences have the real prospect of leading better, happier, healthier and more honest lives. [Continue Reading…]

News

Ddukelogouke Energy has filed an appeal to the $25 million fine issued by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR), calling the penalty both ‘unnecessary’ and ‘excessive.’

The McCrory administration touted the fine issued last month for groundwater contamination at the Sutton Plant near Wilmington as the state’s “largest-ever penalty for environmental damages.”

But officials with Duke argue in their petition the fine deviates from “DENR’s history of responsible regulation” and fails to consider the cooperation by Duke Energy.

Here’s more from the press release issued Thursday by the Charlotte-based utility:

“The Sutton plant generated electricity for millions of customers and operated in compliance with North Carolina pe-suttonlaw and environmental regulations,” said Paul Newton, state president – North Carolina. “We closely monitored groundwater, shared the data with the state for decades, and voluntarily acted to ensure residents near the Sutton plant continue to have a high-quality water supply.”

The appeal, filed with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings, describes a number of instances where the company believes NC DENR’s actions violated state law, the regulator’s own rules and procedures, public policy and the longstanding interpretation of the regulations, including:

  • Fining the company for 1,822 days of alleged groundwater violations despite having sample results for just 27 days.
  • Creating an entirely new methodology to calculate the fine that dramatically increased the size of the penalty, making it $24 million higher than similar fines issued by NC DENR.
  • Failure to consider naturally occurring substances and other potential sources of groundwater contamination in the area.

Duke stresses the utility is working to close 32 ash basins across North Carolina, but cannot remove the coal ash until it has the proper wastewater permits from the state. According to the Charlotte Business Journal, Duke applied for those permits in 2014.

News

When the U.S. Senate returns to work on April 13, Congressman G.K. Butterfield hopes the first order of business will be voting on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

Lynch has now waited longer than the last seven U.S. Attorneys General combined to have a floor vote in the U.S. Senate on her nomination.

Butterfield says he is disappointed Senators Burr and Tillis have allowed right-wing politics to influence their opinion of Lynch, a North Carolina native. He is pushing Senators for a simple up-or-down vote on her nomination.

If Lynch does win confirmation later this month, she would become the first African American woman to serve as United States Attorney General.

Butterfield recently discussed Lynch and the politics behind delaying her nomination on News and Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below for an excerpt of that radio interview:

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News

It’s a little quiet on Jones Street this week as members of the General Assembly are enjoying their scheduled Spring Break. So, with no substantive votes on the calendar, here are six stories worth keeping an eye on:

1. Council of State to meet –  Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina Council of State will hold their monthly meeting Tuesday morning. The big question is, with lawmakers out of town, will members discuss the sale of the Dorothea Dix property?

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane remains hopeful the $52 million sale will receive final approval in the coming weeks and not get side-tracked by Senate Bill 705 and its three sponsors.

2. Offshore Drilling – What’s Next? Recently, the U.S. Department of the Interior released a draft five-year plan that would make the Mid- and South Atlantic coasts available to oil and gas leasing starting in 2017.NCPW-CC-2015-04-07-oil-rig-flickr-tsuda-CC-BY-SA-2-0-150x150

If you’re worried about how this policy shift could forever change the landscape of our coastline, you won’t want to miss NC Policy Watch’s Tuesday Crucial Conversation.

Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Sierra Weaver will discuss what to expect next in the drilling and permitting process now that the initial public comment period has passed.

3. AARP/Shaw team up – With average retirement savings for the majority of Americans at worrisome lows, AARP and Shaw University Divinity School are announcing a “first-of-its-kind” effort to improve the financial security of folks of all ages.

On Tuesday, officials from Shaw and AARP will hold a 10:00 am press conference to explain how this new program can help put people on a path to financial freedom.

Judge Howard Manning

Judge Howard Manning

4. Leandro lawsuit heads back to court – Judge Howard Manning has ordered another special hearing in the Leandro lawsuit this Wednesday and Thursday in Wake County Superior Court.

The purpose of this hearing is so that the state may provide an update on its plans to “reduce, diminish or eliminate” any educational standards, any assessments currently being used, and accountability standards that measure a child’s ability to get a sound basic education. The hearing will also cover statewide EOG results for Grades 3 and 8 for reading and math for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.

(The hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 10A of the Wake County Superior Court.)

5. Romney visits the Triangle – 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will speak at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business this Wednesday.mitt

“A Conversation with Governor Mitt Romney” is free and open to the public, but tickets will be required. Tickets are available online at www.tickets.duke.edu.

Romney will deliver the Ambassador Dave and Kay Phillips Family International Lecture at 5:00 p.m. The lecture will also be livestreamed. Visit #RomneyDuke on Twitter for details.

6. Have your say on coal ash permits – Also Wednesday evening in Lincoln County, the Coal AshDepartment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will hold a public hearing from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the James Warner Citizens Center in Lincolnton about the proposed permits for coal ash pond discharges into Lake Wylie, Mountain Island Lake, and Lake Norman.

The folks at Appalachian Voices, who have been following the state’s coal ash saga since last year’s spill along the Dan River, have an excellent rundown on what’s at stake as DENR considers authorizing these wastewater discharge permits.