Late session environmental changes “an unfortunate way to do business”

enviroWith the legislative session winding down, legislators are moving quickly on a regulatory reform bill that could have a big impact on the state’s environment.

House Bill 593, simply titled “Amend Environmental and Other Laws,” covers a lot of ground — everything from prohibiting certain stormwater control measures, to changing stream water mitigation requirements, to seizing reptiles, to delaying insurance for moped owners.

Rose Hoban at North Carolina Health News highlights some of the bill’s environmental concerns:

There would be fewer requirements around capturing the runoff from a building site. Another provision would allow for more landscaping material like gravel, mulch and sand to run into existing streams and tributaries.

Folks on the downstream end of things found that concerning.

Todd Miller, head of the NC Coastal Federation said that material running into streams, rivers and, eventually, into the ocean, has lots of bacteria in it, from soil, from animals and from people.

“When we develop or use the land, we create runoff that wasn’t there before and increase transport of what’s going downstream,” Miller said. “We have to work to prevent the transport of pollutants off the landscape where they’re in natural abundance.”

He said once that stuff gets into the water, it’s harder to clean it up. It’s better to prevent it from getting there in the first place.

Another part of HB 593 would allow landfill managers to spray the water that collects at the bottom of the landfills, known as leachate, into the air to get rid of it.

According to a presentation submitted to the Environmental Review Commission in February, the aerosolization pumps can spray as much as 600 gallons per minute, with netting controlling the mist created by the spray. Darden said the idea is that spraying the stuff onto the existing landfill allows for the liquids to evaporate and the solids to be reintegrated into the rest of the garbage.

The 14-page bill sailed through committee 45 minutes after being introduced and could be up for a vote on the Senate floor next week.

Guilford County Representative Pricey Harrison calls the rushed legislation “an unfortunate way to do business.”

Read full coverage of HB593 here.


Deadliest mass-shooting in US underscores need for stronger, saner gun policies (full video)

As we learn more about the tragic events unfolding in Orlando, we are posting the full video of this week’s Crucial Conversation on lessons learned one year after the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina.

NC Policy Watch would like to thank State Senator Floyd McKissick, Rev. Kylon Middleton, and Rev. Jennifer Copeland of the North Carolina Council of Churches for being a part of this important conversation.

Here in North Carolina, we see newfound energy and activism in the work of groups like North Carolinians Against Gun Violence and the North Carolina Council of Churches, which will be sponsoring a “Stand Up Sabbath” in congregations throughout our state the weekend of June 18-19.

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Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

ff-609b1. The increasingly intense effort to dismantle public education

Long after this session of the General Assembly has adjourned it will be remembered for more than just the specter of discrimination that hung over the proceedings thanks to the sweeping anti-LGBT law HB2 that was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory a month before the session began, creating a backlash across the country against North Carolina.

It is likely to also go down in history as the year that the push to dismantle traditional public schools reached dangerous new levels as anti-public education ideologues and privatization profiteers worked in tandem again to divert more resources from public education to out of state companies and completely unaccountable private schools and religious academies.

The House recently passed legislation that would allow low-performing schools to be put in something called an achievement school district that could be turned over to an out-of-state for profit charter school company to manage.

The controversial plan has failed in other states, most notably Tennessee, but that didn’t stop the House from approving it after heavy lobbying from a right-wing education group based in Oklahoma and anti-public school forces inside North Carolina. [Read more…]

bathroom_mc400hb22. The obvious way to begin to repair the damage to North Carolina from HB2

It has now been two and a half months since Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2, the sweeping anti-LGBT law passed by the General Assembly that has cost North Carolina thousands of jobs and damaged the state’s reputation around the world.

Rumors persist that legislative leaders are working behind the scenes on some sort of compromise, modifications to the law that will lessen its damaging impact on the state.

There’s talk of a special bipartisan commission headed by former State Budget Director and GOP benefactor Art Pope and former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, a Democrat, that will seek to find common ground on the issues raised by HB2.

A few weeks ago, the Charlotte City Council rightly refused to repeal its ordinance that protected LGBT people from discrimination, scuttling what was reportedly a “compromise” that involved the General Assembly making unspecified changes to HB2 if Charlotte wiped out its ordinance that the statewide law overruled.

Many supporters of HB2 continue to claim that Charlotte needs to repeal its ordinance first as some sort of symbolic show of good faith that state lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory will respond to. [Read more…]

Berger_DPI3. As legislative leaders tout teacher raises, educators highlight major shortcomings in the House and Senate budgets

Partway through last week’s unveiling of the state Senate budget, Sen. Phil Berger was asked by reporters if there were any major cuts to speak of in the $22.2 billion spending plan.

Berger, a Republican from Rockingham County with a historically antagonistic relationship with North Carolina’s public education system, indicated that he couldn’t think of any.

The highlight, it seemed, was a dramatically more aggressive teacher pay plan than either proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory or leaders in the state House that would boost teachers’ average pay, with local supplements, to more than $54,000 over the next two years.

The proposal would make North Carolina the top-paying state for teachers in the southeast, Berger and Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown promised, all while adding about $394 million for public education to the budget plan.[Read more…]

gun-sculpture4. Encouraging signs of life in the movement for sane gun laws

The gun lobby still rules, but its decline is increasingly easy to envision

For the millions of Americans who spend their days online or monitoring their smart devices, the arrival of news alerts regarding “active shooters” or “multiple victims reported shot” have become so commonplace in recent years that they sometimes produce scarcely a raised eyebrow. That is unless, of course, the alert recipient has some reason to feel a connection to the venue of the shooting or the people impacted.

As someone who spent his college years at the University of California, Los Angeles, and who knows people on campus in the present day, I had one of those moments last week when the familiar alerts started scrolling across my screen. Within minutes, an exchange of texts with my college roommate of many decades ago ensued.

“Roomie: Ugh, shooting incident at our alma mater.

Me: Yeah watching now.

Roomie: Is it still active?

Me: Looks like it. [A friend’s son] is in grad school there. Apparently, the shooting’s in Boelter Hall, which I barely remember.

Roomie: Yeah, saw that and couldn’t remember if that was the name then. I remember the engineering school. Name is coming back to me now.

Me: [Expletive] guns. [Read more…]

pv-608b5. “Women’s privacy,” huh? Most HB2 defenders sang a very different tune in 2015

On March 23 of this year, House Bill 2, the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act”, was introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly, passed in the House and Senate, and signed into law by Governor McCrory.

According to its defenders, the new law is principally about “protecting women and children.” A campaign in favor of the law, “Keep NC Safe,” is well known for producing rally signs that read “Keep Women Safe,” “Keep Children Safe,” and “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms,” thus further perpetuating the false idea that trans people are predatory and dangerous. I have even heard first-hand during meetings with legislators the sincerely-expressed belief that without HB2, voyeurs may feel emboldened to take photos of women while they are using the restroom.

Governor McCrory embraced this argument on April 12 when he announced a follow-up Executive Order to HB2 (which actually did nothing to change the law itself) affirming “the state’s commitment to privacy and equality.”

Now flash back a year to June 5, 2015. On that date, McCrory signed into law House Bill 465, an extreme piece of anti-abortion legislation deceptively entitled the “Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015” that had passed both chambers of the General Assembly just days earlier. Among other things, HB 465 imposed a 72-hour waiting period for people attempting to access abortion care and, remarkably, required abortion providers to send ultrasound images to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services of any abortions performed after sixteen weeks. [Read more…]

Commentary, News

Hispanic advocates speak out against bill banning unofficial IDs for immigrants

Leaders of El Pueblo are criticizing a legislative committee’s decision to pass House Bill 1069, legislation that prevents local police authorities from recognizing community IDs for undocumented citizens.

Here’s El Pueblo’s official statement on on Wednesday’s vote by the House Regulatory Reform Committee:

Sponsors of the recently proposed HB 1069 and its supporters are firmly on the wrong side of history. This bill specifically removes an exception to a 2015 law that allows law enforcement to accept the highly effective Community Identification cards from local residents, as a tool for investigation.

Despite protests from local police departments and human rights groups who see the value of these identification programs, these legislators are targeting the most vulnerable in our state by furthering distrust between local authorities and their respective communities, as well as making the job of police officers even more difficult by taking away their ability to identify residents when timing is of the essence.

Carmen Rodriguez, a resident of Raleigh and a FaithAction ID recipient, expressed her concern with HB 1069. “It scares me to know that I could possibly be in a dangerous situation, and not even be able to identify myself to local authorities. This ID has given me and my family peace of mind, and now they’re trying to take it away from me.”

Learn more about the FaithAction ID initiative here.

Read House Bill 1069 in its entirety here.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

ff-601-budget1. The cynical and damaging election-year Senate budget

It’s not hard to tell it is an election year for the General Assembly. Senate leaders, who for years have demonized public school teachers and openly challenged assertions that they are underpaid, are now proposing a significant salary increase that they claim will raise the state’s ranking in teacher pay to 24th in the nation.

That’s the budget headline they are hoping everyone remembers. They’d rather not talk about their plan that gives only some state employees a small pay hike while ignoring state retirees altogether.

Senate Budget Chair Harry Brown said giving retirees a long overdue cost of living increase as the House proposed would not be “good budgeting.”   People who spent much of their lives serving the public by working in state government and who are now having trouble making ends meet would no doubt disagree. [Continue reading….]

Spellings-and-Kelly2. New high-priced UNC administrator: Not likely to solve problems of soaring costs and student debt

UNC President Margaret Spellings announced last Thursday the appointment of Andrew P. Kelly, current director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, to the position of Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy at the university.

According to Raleigh’s News & Observer, the newly-created position, which will begin in August, comes with an annual salary of $245,000, and seems designed to address numerous pressures facing the institution, including “climbing tuition, loan default rates, poor college readiness, lackluster graduation rates and poor productivity.”

As Kelly told UNC’s Board of Governors, “Families are anxious about the cost of college, and they’re desperate for some bold thinking on how to make college more valuable, not just more affordable, more valuable. Policymakers are looking for solutions, and I’m looking forward to working with you all to come up with some of those.” [Continue reading….]

ASD-Brockman3. Tempers flare as controversial Achievement School District bill clears House
Unproven model allows for charter takeover of state’s lowest-performing schools

Rep. Cecil Brockman is admitting he could have been more eloquent.

The first-term High Point Democrat, co-sponsor of House Bill 1080, perhaps the most controversial K-12 education bill in the legislature thus far this year, was bristling when he rebuffed a fellow Democrat’s calls for teacher appreciation moments ago.

Brockman’s bill for achievement school districts—a reform that could grant for-profit charters the ability to wring control of a low-performing school from a local school district—is not about teachers, he insists. [Continue reading.…]

nctabor-ff4. The HB2 of state budget and tax policy ideas
If you think things are bad now for NC, wait till you see what might be coming next at the General Assembly

The damage to North Carolina’s economy, brain power and overall wellbeing from HB2 is rapidly spreading and accumulating. What started out as a handful of canceled entertainment events is fast becoming a bona fide all-purpose disaster for North Carolina that will impact the state for years to come. As one astute commentator noted last week in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“A study out of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center says that the potential loss of federal funds in North Carolina could result in $2.4 billion in wages and 53,000 jobs. While those numbers seem staggering, they pale in comparison to the loss of brand equity HB2 is causing. We might be able to quantify job losses when organizations like PayPal and Deutsche Bank announce their plans to disinvest in North Carolina. We never will be able to calculate how much we lose when North Carolina gets crossed off the list in some corporate site selection meeting or the next great tech startup chooses to start elsewhere. [Continue reading….]

PV-6025. HB2 update: If we’re going to talk about sexual violence, let’s really talk about it

A high school football team’s locker room is host to the sexual harassment and assault of its freshmen members every week. Sexual violence survivors increasingly come forward to share their stories of abuse at the hands of their clergy. A coach on a Big Ten sports team is found guilty of molesting numerous children over a period of decades. A 13-year old girl is raped by her older brother’s classmates and left unconscious in the snow on her front lawn.

These are just a few examples of the sexual violence that makes the news, and the reality of what children in our society experience. It is estimated that one-in-four girls and one-in-six boys in this country experience some type of sexual violence by the time they turn 18. Approximately 69% of teen sexual assaults occur in a private residence. Only about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual assault are strangers to the children they victimize, while 30% of the perpetrators are family members of the child (the other 60% are family friends, neighbors, coaches, clergy, babysitters, etc.).[Continue reading….]

Upcoming event on Monday, June 6th: Crucial Conversation — A year after the Charleston tragedy: Growing hope for saner anti-gun violence policies. The event features State Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr., the Rev. Kylon Middleton pastor of the Mount Zion AME Church in Charleston, S.C. and Rev. Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director of the North Carolina Council of Churches.