News

WATCH: Trump on ‘2nd Amendment people’ and Clinton’s judicial picks

Donald Trump raised eyebrows in Wilmington Tuesday suggesting that “Second Amendment people” could do something to prevent Hillary Clinton from making appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court who might restrict gun rights.

Here’s the quote that has political pundits and the media buzzing:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said. “Although the 2nd Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Watch an extended version of Trump’s Wilmington address below:

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The Clinton campaign and Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Deborah Ross labelled the remark as dangerous:

Governor Pat McCrory, who was campaigning with Trump, has yet to comment on the controversial remark.  McCrory used his time on the Wilmington stage to announce he will take the fight over the state’s voter ID law to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

mc-ash-4001. The widening scandal in the McCrory Administration about coal ash

The headlines in Raleigh these days have been dominated by the landmark ruling by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturning much of the North Carolina’s massive voter suppression law with the court citing stunning evidence that state lawmakers asked for data about African-American voting habits and then changed the law to make it harder for African-Americans to vote.

Also in the news have been the constantly changing explanations of Gov. Pat McCrory about HB2, the sweeping anti-LGBT law McCrory signed that continues to damage North Carolina’s reputation around the world and cost the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. The NBA’s recent decision to move the 2017 all-star game and its $100 million economic impact out of Charlotte because of the law is the latest blow.

But now another blockbuster story that has been in the background has exploded, the rapidly widening scandal starting with sworn testimony from the state toxicologist that key officials in the McCrory Administration rejected his analysis and told people living near leaking Duke Energy coal ash ponds that their drinking water was safe when there was scientific evidence that it was not. [Continue reading….]

Rudo_byCanaryCoalition2. State toxicologist assailed by Gov. McCrory has lengthy record of research and public service

He’s testified against Dow Chemical. He’s faced down ExxonMobil. His testimony helped two farmworkers whose baby was born without arms or legs reach a settlement with Ag-Mart over pesticide exposure.

In comparison, Governor Pat McCrory could be described as a relative small fry in some respects.

Ken Rudo, the state’s toxicologist, has been under attack by McCrory, who, earlier this week, tried to discredit him. At a last-minute, late-night press conference, McCrory, through a spokesman, alleged Rudo had lied under oath about the governor’s involvement in misleading private well owners about coal ash contamination in their drinking water.

But an interview with a member of Rudo’s Ph.D. committee, as well as a review of scientific papers, federal and state court cases and expert testimony, all reveal that Rudo’s bona fides are unassailable. (Some academics and scientists contacted for this article could not speak to NCPW because of their institutions’ media policies.) NCPW found that, until he crossed swords with the McCrory administration, Rudo has never been accused of lying under oath or fabricating data.[Continue reading.…]

***Bonus read: North State Journal, staffed by former DEQ and McCrory employees, joins governor in attacking Ken Rudo

sm_52920143. Now do you understand why the courts are so important?

Fourth Circuit decision on voting rights should convince progressives, once and for all, of the need to fight for good judges

In some ways, it’s not surprising that American progressives – even activists – are prone to be blasé or MIA when it comes to the selection of federal judges. After all, it’s one thing to get fired up and become an activist over who gets elected president or even to rally for or against a controversial law. It’s quite another, at first blush anyway, to devote one’s time and passion to the matter of who serves in that most staid and aloof of public institutions – the federal judiciary.

How do you get people revved up to do battle over which successful, middle-aged lawyer will be plucked from his or her successful, high powered job and given a life appointment to wear a black robe and write book-length “opinions” about legal doctrines that most average Americans have never contemplated? It’s just so far removed from most people’s experience and…unsexy.

Well, here’s one way to tackle the problem: Tell them about last Friday’s ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that struck down North Carolina’s “monster” voter suppression law. [Continue reading….]

NC_DPI_ED4. Budget cuts take a bite out of DPI’s ability to support local school districts

As enrollment rises, legislature slashes agency budget

“People in North Carolina, if they knew how little was spent on administration, they should be sending us ‘thank you cards’ for doing the work to support teachers in the classroom.”

June Atkinson, superintendent of public instruction in North Carolina, is talking about the latest cut to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), a $300,000 reduction that, all things considered, will deal relatively minor damage to the state department charged with providing support and oversight for local schools.

Last year’s cut, a $2.5 million slash in DPI coffers, did the real damage, forcing the department to once again shed dozens of jobs and services.

Since 2009-2010, student enrollment in North Carolina has grown by nearly 5 percent, with public schools accounting for more than 70,000 additional students. Yet, DPI records show, the N.C. General Assembly has handed down $19.4 million in cuts, forcing the agency to jettison more than 200 administrative jobs. [Continue reading….]

hunter-8015. HB2 update: Inside the federal courthouse at Monday’s hearing

With elbow-length winter-white hair, and wearing black shorts and a sleeveless shirt, Hunter Schaefer looked vaguely Nordic. Her celery-thin legs were jammed into thick-soled, black platform shoes, and, like many girls and boys in their early teens, she seemed coltish.

“She knows who she is, at core of her very being,” said her father, Mac, a Presbyterian minister, as they faced a battalion of television cameras outside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem. “She is my first-born daughter and she is loved beyond her wildest imagination.”

A transwoman, Hunter is one of several LGBTQ people represented by the ACLU and Lambda Legal who are suing state officials on constitutional grounds over House Bill 2. Now the law in North Carolina, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act orders government agencies, such as public schools, universities and cities, to ban people from using public bathrooms, locker rooms and showers based on their gender identity. Instead, transgender people — there are roughly 40,000 in North Carolina — must go to the bathroom based on their gender assigned at birth, or as listed on their birth certificate.

The law also fails to protect gays and lesbians against discrimination and bars local governments from taking action to do so. [Continue reading.…]

News

McLennan: Unpredictable Trump puts McCrory, Burr in no-win situation (video)

When Governor Pat McCrory praised Donald Trump as the outsider that the country needs in the White House, he probably could not have imagined Trump would start a public feud with a Gold Star family, kick a baby out of a campaign rally, and complain the November’s election could be rigged.

Political scientist David McLennan of Meredith College suggests that’s a real problem for Gov. McCrory and Senator Richard Burr — neither knows what Trump will say or do next in the remaining three months leading up to Election Day.

“Trumps numbers, if they do continue to fall, that leaves Gov. McCrory and Senator Burr in a very difficult situation,” explains McLennan.

McLennan, who appears this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, believes that while McCrory and Burr want to appeal to the base, neither man wants to be in the position of having to justify Trumps’ actions.

On Thursday, Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence was campaigning in Raleigh.

McCrory opted to head east – visiting Elizabeth City State University and attending the U.S. Coast Guard’s  annual picnic.

For a preview of McLennan’s interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below:

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Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Stan_Riggs4001. Leading coastal scientist resigns from key state panel in protest

It wasn’t just the political controversy over sea-level rise. Or the Coastal Resources Commission’s defense of a sea-level rise report.

Or state environmental officials, who are allowing 21 eight-bedroom houses to be built on ecologically sensitive and flood-prone land on Sunset Beach.

No, “it was really a slow drip drip” of politically driven decisions, Dr. Stan Riggs said, that ultimately drove the renowned marine geologist away.

A distinguished professor of geology at East Carolina University, Riggs resigned from the CRC’s science panel on July 25 over political conflicts about development and growth on the coast. He co-founded the panel in 1996.

“I believe the once highly respected and effective science panel has been subtly defrocked and is now an ineffective body,” Riggs wrote in his two-page letter.

Riggs also sent his letter to Braxton Davis, director of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. Davis has not returned message seeking comment.

At stake in the state’s policy decisions are the millions of people who live, work and visit the coast, as well as sensitive marine habitats already jeopardized by development. [Continue reading…]

vouchers-62. More taxpayer funding for voucher schools that openly discriminate against LGBT students and parents

Bible Baptist Christian School in Matthews is one of 336 religious schools and private academies that receive taxpayer funding under the voucher program created by the General Assembly in 2013 and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The school collected more than $100,000 in public support for the 2015-2016 school year to pay for the education of 26 students who signed up for a voucher.

But not all taxpayers have access to the school.  Gay students and students with gay parents are banned from attending Bible Baptist Christian School even though their tax dollars support it.

That’s not an unwritten policy quietly enforced by the admissions office.  It is quite explicit that gay students and students with gay parents are not welcome.

Page 76 of the student handbook of the school includes a “Homosexual Conduct Policy” that makes it clear. [Continue reading…]

NC Poverty Research Fund3. “Radicalized concentrated poverty”
Disturbing new report on NC’s largest city is a must read for those who care about our state and its future

The city of Charlotte – bustling with activity, rapid growth and construction cranes and soon to be within shouting distance of a million residents – may seem an odd place to feature in a new report on poverty. The authors of “Economic Hardship, Radicalized Concentrated Poverty and the Challenges of Low Wage Work: Charlotte, North Carolina” acknowledge this truth right up front in their just-released study.

As Professor Gene Nichol and researcher Heather Hunt of the University of North Carolina School of Law and the N.C. Poverty Research Fund note in the opening paragraphs of their report, the city of Charlotte and its home county of Mecklenburg have a long and impressive list of things going for them – a fast-growing population, gleaming office towers filled with the employees of major corporations, giant medical centers, top flight universities, big league sports teams and an outsized share of the state’s wealth and economic output. [Continue reading…]

McCrory ASD4. Gov. McCrory signs off on charter takeover of low-performing schools

As expected, Gov. Pat McCrory has signed House Bill 1080, controversial legislation that will allow for-profit charter takeovers of several low-performing schools in North Carolina.

McCrory’s office announced the signing Tuesday, although the news was buried in a press release about the governor’s signing of legislation intended to help state officials keep track of veterans.

It’s unclear when the governor gave his seal to the bill. On Tuesday, staff at McCrory’s press office did not respond to Policy Watch’s inquiries about the signing.

The bill, which was opposed by most Democrats and public school backers in the state legislature, creates a statewide “achievement school district” for five low-performing schools. [Continue reading…]

604-chart5. Failing charter schools: Inadequate screening and oversight causing big problems for many NC families

Erinn Rochelle says she beat herself up for months after her sons’ charter school unexpectedly shut down during its first year of operation.

“Not only did I put my kids there, I recommended that school to my friends,” said Rochelle, whose children entered the brand new StudentFirst Academy in Charlotte in 2013. “Four or five of them decided to enroll their children there too, and it just makes me feel really bad. My name is tarnished.”

In spring 2014 with about a month left in the school year, StudentFirst was in debt by more than $600,000 and shut its doors, giving only a week’s notice. Rochelle scrambled to get her children into a public magnet school operated by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. [Continue reading…]

Bonus read:

BREAKING: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down NC’s Monster Voting law (Updated)

There are 83 pages to wade through — click here to do it yourself — but one thing is clear from the ruling today issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: North Carolina’s “monster” voter suppression law has been struck down. These are the final two paragraphs of the court’s opinion: [Continue reading…]

Commentary, News

WATCH: NC NAACP president: We must “revive the heart of our democracy.”

NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber brought his Moral Monday message to Philadelphia Thursday preaching for the need to raise wages, improve labor conditions, enhance public education, and protect both LGBTQ and voting rights.

“We need to embrace our deepest moral values…for revival at the heart of our democracy.”

Click below to watch an excerpt of his speech before the
Democratic National Convention:

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