Coal ash clean upThis morning’s Weekly Briefing tries to bring readers up to date on the sad state of North Carolina’s coal ash debate and the surprising — and potentially tragic — lack of action by state leaders to confront Duke Energy and protect the public’s well-being.

One important side story to the coal ash crisis that it does not get into, however, is the increasingly absurd saga of Gov. McCrory’s failure to report his Duke Energy holdings on required state ethics forms. Fortunately, Sunday’s Charlotte Observer editorial page took care of that issue pretty comprehensively:

“We’re not sure which is most upsetting:

• That Gov. Pat McCrory owned a substantial amount of Duke Energy stock for his first 15 months in office, including for two months after Duke’s massive coal ash spill, even though that posed an obvious conflict of interest as the utility lobbied the administration hard on all kinds of matters.

• That McCrory filed an inaccurate report with the State Ethics Commission, saying he didn’t own any Duke stock as of Dec. 31, 2013, when in fact he did. Doing so reveals either a desire to mislead or gross incompetence by him and his general counsel.

• That McCrory still doesn’t get it. The governor maintains “we haven’t broken any rules” when that is indisputably untrue. He says he is “amazed” at the questions surrounding his mistake, fully unable to comprehend that it’s a matter most North Carolinians consider newsworthy.”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/08/16/5109117/mccrorys-mishandling-of-his-duke.html#.U_IW-8VdVAI#storylink=cpy

Plaintiffs in the Virginia marriage equality case have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the request for a stay of the 4th Circuit decision rejecting that state’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

As reported previously, attorneys for the Virginia county clerk who has been defending the state’s same-sex marriage ban had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay implementation of the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Bostic v. Schaefer

Without that stay, same-sex marriages can begin in Virginia on Thursday.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who handles Fourth Circuit emergency filings, is expected to rule on the request, either on his own or after consulting his colleagues.

The clerk’s request was prompted by the Fourth Circuit’s refusal this past Wednesday to enter a stay of its own decision.

Read the plaintiffs’  full request to deny the stay here.

trackingCuts-web-600Members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education approved a budget last week that eliminates 22 teacher assistant positions, thanks to a $911,000 budget shortfall handed down by state lawmakers.

According to chapelboro.com:

Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Todd LoFrese said that while the state budget would allow Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools to shift some money back into hiring TAs if so desired, the legislature slipped in some additional rules that would have resulted in eight more teacher losses than the school system could handle.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro also had to cut 4.5 gifted specialist positions and eliminate some custodial positions.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the city’s school system was able to move those TAs into other vacant positions, but classrooms in grades 4 and 5 will have to cope with less instructional support.

State budget cuts also forced Randolph County Schools to make reductions in force: that district cut 30 media assistant positions for the upcoming year.

RCS’ Public Information Officer Tim Moody said the district does have other vacancies available and it’s possible some of those media assistants were able to step into those jobs, but he wasn’t sure how many.

Each school in the district lost a media assistant position.

Gov. McCrory signed a 260-page budget bill earlier this month that spends $105 million less than what was previously budgeted for teacher assistants, even though he has repeatedly said he would only sign a budget that preserves all TA positions. 

School districts around the state are reporting that they have been forced to eliminate teacher assistants’ jobs and other positions thanks to budget shortfalls passed down to them by state lawmakers.

Do you know of budget cuts school districts are coping with as they begin the academic year? Send me an email at lindsay@ncpolicywatch.com 

Martin_appointmentAs expected, Gov. Pat McCrory today announced that he will appoint sitting Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin to serve as Chief Justice effective September 1, 2014, replacing the retiring chief, Sarah Parker.

Martin is the court’s Senior Associate Justice, elected to a seat there in 1998 at the age of 35. He previously served on the Court of Appeals and the Superior Court.

Although he will begin service in September, Martin must still run for that slot in November, facing off against Brunswick County Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis.

Here is an excerpt from the governor’s press release:

Justice Martin has served as the Senior Associate Justice since 2006, and our Court is better for it. The humility and integrity of his character has benefited our state, and his knowledge and depth of experience is inimitable. I look forward to his work as Chief Justice as he draws upon his more than 20 years of judicial experience.