Commentary, News

This week’s top five on NC Policy Watch

1. New data highlights troubling racial disparities in Wake County school discipline:
NC’s largest public school system under pressure to modify its deployment of School Resource Officers

Nearly 70 percent of law enforcement referrals made in Wake County schools over the last two years involved African American students.

That overwhelmingly high rate comes despite black students making up less than a quarter of total student enrollment in Wake County Public School System (WCPSS). [Read more…]

2. General Assembly sends HB2 “repeal” to Cooper’s desk: Governor, some Democrats support effort in face of impassioned progressive opposition

In a strange and remarkable replay of the controversial one-day special legislative session that took place one year ago last week, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation today in a matter of hours that purports to repeal HB2 – the state’s infamous LGBTQ discrimination law. Surprisingly, the proposal also appears to have the backing of Governor Roy Cooper, who issued a terse statement of support last night.

Under the terms of the new legislation, which was only formally made public for the first time this morning in a hastily organized meeting of the Senate Rules Committee, the state law established by HB2 is officially repealed. The new bill, however, also goes on to make three additional changes to state statutes that equality and civil rights advocates and other observers quickly and loudly condemned as a betrayal. [Read more…]

3. Important Medicaid news you might have missed

You probably missed the news that the members of the overwhelmingly Republican state Senate finally came to their senses Monday and voted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and provide health care to hundreds of thousands of people.

One Republican Senator said it was simply the right thing to do and that the state had “citizens who are uninsured and hospitals that are suffering.”

Another Republican told a reporter that he couldn’t believe it took the state so long to embrace Medicaid expansion.

There’s a reason you likely missed this monumental decision. It didn’t happen in North Carolina. It came in the Kansas, in the state Senate where Republicans hold a supermajority.  [Read more…]

4. High Court ruling raises the bar, ensuring disabled students receive a meaningful education

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a ruling last week that will empower parents of disabled students to make sure their children are getting a meaningful education and hold public schools accountable if not.

The court looked at the question of whether public schools – under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – should be required to provide students with disabilities an equal education to other students or just an adequate education. [Read more…]

5. Duke researchers warn of methane’s dangers, while the university presses for a new natural gas plant

The scientists who work on climate issues at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University belong to an esteemed crowd. Their studies on the environmental, economic and public health perils of fracked natural gas have been featured in major peer-reviewed journals. Their findings on the role of methane leaks from natural gas in harming human health and driving climate change have earned the school scientific renown.

Air pollution linked to methane, among other so-called “short-lived” pollutants, “is literally killing people,” Drew T. Shindell, professor of climate sciences, testified before Congress in 2014. “It is the leading environmental cause of premature death,” leading to more than seven million each year worldwide.

And yet Duke University is proposing to build a $55 million, 21-megawatt natural gas plant on West Campus, near Towerview and Wannamaker drives, a little more than a half-mile from the Nicholas School. [Read more…] ***Bonus posts:

Commentary

Two contrasting, progressive takes on HB 2.0 – What’s your opinion?

Raleigh’s News & Observer offers two sincere, well-argued and contrasting views this morning on yesterday’s HB2 repeal/compromise — a new law that many are referring to as HB2.0. In the “grudgingly pro” camp is the paper’s lead editorial “On HB2, a bitter but needed deal.” On the “unsatisfied/frustrated” side is, once again, the paper’s excellent lead sportswriter, Luke DeCock. His column is entitled “HB2 compromise may save basketball, but at what cost?”

Here’s DeCock:

“You think basketball recruiting is dirty? (It is.) North Carolina politics makes basketball recruiting look like a bake sale.

Thursday’s partial repeal of House Bill 2 may have done just enough to satisfy the NCAA and save basketball, but that’s about all….

There are real people, real lives, hurt by HB2 far more than basketball fans. This inadequate, necessary replacement for a stupid, unnecessary law – repealing HB2 itself but extending restrictions on local anti-discrimination laws through 2020 – helps the latter far more than the former.

It’s hard to celebrate fending off disaster with the NCAA when North Carolina remains one of the least welcoming and inclusive states in the nation. But Cooper said House Bill 142 allows employers and organizations like the NCAA and ACC to demand whatever LGBT protections they desire from arenas and from contractors, which HB2 prohibited….

In the end, everyone should save some face. The NCAA gets enough political cover to come back to North Carolina, a profitable partner for that organization. Cooper gets to declare victory on repeal, even if large portions of his constituency are outraged by the terms. The Republican majority accepts defeat on HB2 itself but extends the moratorium on local anti-discrimination laws from the six months originally proposed in December all the way out to 2020.

The worst parts of HB2 may be gone. We’re told this is better than nothing, and of course it is, yet that’s such a low bar to clear. The terrible, bitter taste of our state-sanctioned bigotry remains, even if it’s fainter than it was.”

And this is from the editorial:

“There’s no satisfaction in a deal on a discriminatory law that leaves the targets of discrimination feeling unheard and unprotected.

But this compromise was needed and, given the fear-mongering on one side and the outrage on the other, it was inevitable that any agreement would bring objections from both sides. Cooper made the deal he needed to make with Republicans. The state, already battered by the HB2 fallout was going to lose more business. And the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference had made it clear that there would be no more championships played in North Carolina as long as HB2 existed….

Make no mistake. Thanks to a hasty (one day) action to pass HB2 to overturn a Charlotte ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify — something they’d been doing for decades anyway — North Carolina suffered huge casualties. This was a national embarrassment, courtesy of Republican leaders in the General Assembly amateurishly flexing their muscle to please their hard-right base.

Cooper might have let them continue to twist in the wind, considering that he won the governorship despite Donald Trump carrying North Carolina and McCrory’s incumbency, but he did the right thing. The state’s best interest won out. Thursday brought not a happy ending to HB2, but an ending nonetheless.”

Tell us what you think in the comments section below. Was it a necessary compromise or a depressing sell-out?

Commentary

NC sports columnist: NCAA should tell North Carolina that HB2 “repeal” is “lipstick on a pig”

You know your state is seriously behind the times when it’s getting blasted over basic social policy by journalists who normally busy themselves with touchdowns, fast breaks and home runs. Yet here’s another important North Carolina sports columnist speaking out: Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer. Fowler says the NCAA should tell North Carolina that today’s HB2 repeal bill is not nearly enough:

“If I were the NCAA, I would have four words for North Carolina regarding this HB2 repeal:

Not nearly good enough.

It’s obvious that the HB2 ‘repeal’ has been approved 70-48 after winding its way through the political corridors of our great state has a sense of urgency. It awaits the governor’s signature because the NCAA is about to hand out another string of championship site selections for 2018-2022, and North Carolina wants to be included.

But I can’t see how the NCAA will do anything but tell North Carolina lawmakers that this shot just rimmed out. No, worse than that. This compromise that pleases no one is an airball, and should be labeled as such by a passionate crowd that just saw a terrible misfire in a packed arena.

Although state legislators and Gov. Roy Cooper are going to hail this as a last-minute victory assuming it jumps through every political hoop, it looks to me a lot more like smearing lipstick on a pig. It does not fulfill Cooper’s promises to the LGBT community. It does not allow local governments to pass anti-discrimination ordinances until at least December 2020, and that was one of HB2’s most basic and controversial requirements. The new bill leaves all gay people vulnerable to unequal treatment until past the next presidential election.

The NCAA hasn’t commented yet, but recently it noted in a statement and on Twitter that “The NCAA Board of Governors relocated NCAA championships because of the cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities’ ability to ensure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in our events.”

I can’t imagine this new bill will do anything to change that. The NCAA should tell North Carolina to go pound sand.”

Commentary

Scathing Charlotte Observer editorial decries HB2 deal as “betrayal”

A new Charlotte Observer editorial minces few words in blasting the parties involved in today’s HB2 “compromise.” The only derogatory adjective missing that the authors might have added is “McCrory-like.” Here are some excerpts:

“Legislators and Gov. Roy Cooper hailed Thursday’s HB2 repeal bill as a compromise. In fact, it is nothing of the kind. It is a betrayal of the promises the governor made to the LGBT community and a doubling down on discrimination by Republican legislators who have backed it all along.

House Bill 142 literally does not one thing to protect the LGBT community and locks in HB2’s most basic and offensive provision. It repeals HB2 in name only and will not satisfy any business or organization that is truly intolerant of an anti-gay environment and of a state that codifies discrimination.

HB2’s most fundamental requirement was that local governments cannot pass anti-discrimination ordinances that govern public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels. Under Thursday’s agreement, that is still true, until at least December 2020.

This was the first real test of leadership for Gov. Cooper, a Democrat, and he failed spectacularly by inexplicably discarding his earlier promise not to accept any deal that left people vulnerable to discrimination. The new bill ensures that all gay people – not just transgender people seeking to relieve themselves without being harassed – are susceptible to unequal treatment for at least the next 3 ½ years….

Just as Cooper turned his back on the LGBT community, so would the NCAA, ACC and NBA if they endorse it. When the NCAA pulled its events from the state, it specifically said it was doing so because state law invalidates any local ordinances that seek to prevent LGBT discrimination. That is still the case with the new bill, so it is not clear how the NCAA would find it acceptable.

The legislation dodges the whole bathroom question. Charlotte’s ordinance allowed transgender individuals to use the public bathroom of the gender with which they identify. HB2 banned that. The new law does not specify what transgender people are to do.

We understand that (almost) everyone just wants HB2 to go away. We do too. But passing something just to put it behind you while leaving tens of thousands of citizens defenseless against discrimination is dishonorable, and should be a permanent part of the legacy of any public official who casts that vote.”

 

Commentary

Four more years doesn’t sound like much of a “repeal”

The final language on the deal that was apparently reached last night to, at least technically, “repeal” HB2 hasn’t been officially introduced as a bill or bill amendment yet, so final judgment may be a bit premature. But if the agreement includes what it is reported to include — namely a permanent ban on local governments enacting restroom equity ordinances for transgender people and a four-year ban on LGBTQ equality ordinances generally — it’s hard to see how this in much of a “compromise.” HB2 will be in full effect as it pertains to denying equality and human rights for four more years.

This is from a statement issued by the Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC last night:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

“This proposal is a train wreck that would double down on anti-LGBTQ discrimination. North Carolinians want a clean repeal of HB2, and we urge our allies not to sell us out,” said Chris Sgro, Equality NC Executive Director. “Those who stand for equality and with LGBTQ people are standing strong against these antics. We’ve got less than 24 hours before the NCAA deadline. There is no time to waste – our leaders must fight for what’s right, and that is full repeal.”

Sadly, it seems that the criticisms are on the money. To make matters worse, the plan is to ram the faux repeal through in one day without opportunity for public input or comment. One suspects that Gov. Cooper did as much as he thought possible, but, at this point, it is an extremely disappointing outcome.