Commentary

Governor signs “Duke Energy Protection Act”

Coal ashIn case you missed it late last Friday, Governor McCrory gave final approval to a bill that purports to address the state’s coal ash crisis, but that environmental advocates are deriding as the “Duke Energy Protection Act.” The folks at the League of Conservation Voters have distributed this helpful response/summary this morning:

GOV. MCCRORY SIGNS “DUKE ENERGY PROTECTION ACT”

Former Duke employee shows his loyalty to former employer, not current constituents

RALEIGH (July 18, 2016): To no surprise, Governor Pat McCrory signed disastrous coal ash legislation into law late Friday afternoon, further stalling the cleanup of the state’s toxic coal ash mess. House Bill 630, more appropriately called the “Duke Energy Protection Act,” gives the utility monopoly even more time to leave poisonous coal ash waste in leaking pits. Every day that passes puts the health and safety of more and more North Carolinians at risk. Even more egregious, this bill undermines the more than 8,000 comments submitted by North Carolina citizens earlier this year urging leaders to remove all coal ash sitting near waterways and to label no community as low-risk.

“There are families across North Carolina who cannot drink their own well water because it’s contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals found in Duke Energy’s coal ash,” said Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for NC League of Conservation Voters. “Duke Energy had revenues of over $23 billion in 2015, yet Governor McCrory just signed a law that lets his former employer off the hook with a cheaper alternative and a longer timeline. If the water in the Governor’s Mansion were poisoned, I’ll bet Gov. McCrory wouldn’t get by on bottled water for three years, so why does he expect North Carolina citizens to do just that?”

Many North Carolinians have been subsisting on bottled water since the State of North Carolina notified them in 2015 that they should not drink their water.

“Unlike what Governor McCrory and Duke Energy want you to believe, this bill is no compromise,” continued Crawford. “Instead, it gives power back to Duke Energy, the reason for this toxic mess, to decide when or even if coal ash remains near our waterways. Clean, safe drinking water is a critical issue that should have been considered in its own legislation; it should not be grouped with a bill designed to protect the interests of Duke Energy. It is shameful that the McCrory administration continues to ignore the health of our people in favor of political back-scratching with a dirty polluter.”

Facts on House Bill 630

Read more

Commentary, News

Kasich rejects Cleveland police request to suspend “open carry” laws during GOP convention

Good grief. Has our societal obsession with guns gone so far that law enforcement must make a special request to suspend “open carry” laws around major events? One would have though the insanity of recent situations in which officers couldn’t tell snipers from “open carriers” would have taught us a lesson, but apparently not. Judd Legum of Think Progress filed the following report yesterday:

Ohio is an “open carry” state which allows gun owners to carry them in plain sight. People have been exercising this right around the site of the Republican convention…

Strangely, in the area around the convention, “tennis balls, metal-tipped umbrellas or canned goods” are prohibited. But AR-15s or other firearms are not.

But now, the Cleveland Police Union has made an emergency request to suspend open carry for the duration of the Republican convention.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Cleveland Police Union president Stephen Loomis told CNN.

The request may be related to the violence in Baton Rogue, where three police officers were killed today. (Loomis also blamed Obama for those shootings, saying he had “blood on his hands.”)

The request will put Governor Kasich in an awkward position. In general Republicans argue that open-carry laws are an important party of the right to bear arms and improve public safety. The research does not support this argument.

UPDATE JUL 17, 2016 3:03 PM

Governor Kasich, through a spokesperson, rejected the request from the Cleveland police. “Ohio Governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state law as suggested,” his spokesperson said.

Commentary, News

This week’s top five on NC Policy Watch

McCrory ASD1. Governor McCrory needs to realize that putting ideology over evidence won’t help struggling students

Legislative leaders say they care about helping struggling schools in North Carolina and the students who attend them—but they don’t act much like they do.

Imagine going to the doctor for an ear infection and the doctor tells you that she’s going to prescribe a drug that hasn’t worked very well in treating other patients with similar infections.

That in essence is what the General Assembly did this session by approving legislation to put five low-performing schools in something called an achievement school district (ASD) that may be run by an out of state for profit charter school company.

[Continue reading…]

McCrory body cams2. Missing a chance to send a message at a time of national crisis:
Governor McCrory swings and misses on the police violence issue

The phenomenon of brutality and misconduct by law enforcement officers toward average Americans (especially young African-American men) is, of course, nothing new in the United States. For a tragically high percentage of people of color, regular confrontations with police are a regular and often terrifying fact of life. In some large American cities, there are so many cases of police misconduct that some lawyers devote their entire practices to representing victims or defending police. And needless to say, the phenomenon of law officers being targeted by criminals goes back to the beginning of civilization.

In recent years, however, two developments – one negative and one positive – have elevated these issues significantly.

[Continue reading…]

k12-virtual3. Accountability for NC virtual charter operators back in the spotlight after California forces K12 Inc. to pay $168.5 million settlement

Bill Cobey, chairman of North Carolina’s State Board of Education, has heard all about K12 Inc.’s California settlement, a purported $168.5 million pact with the state’s attorney general amid long-running allegations that the for-profit virtual charter school operator inflated student test scores and attendance to drain more cash from public coffers.

It’s of import to Cobey because K12, of course, is one of two companies operating similar, publicly-funded virtual charters in North Carolina, both of which experienced soaring dropout rates this year in their first eight months of operation while taking in more than $14 million in state funds this year

[Continue reading…]

Money-eyes-4004. Is this as good as it gets for North Carolina?

Over the next year North Carolinians will find out the results of an experiment that began July 1. On that date, a new state budget took effect that is based, not on the level of public investment needed to help communities thrive, but on a formula divorced from the reality of everyday lives.to help to help communities thrive, but on a formula divorced from the reality of everyday lives. The formula is rigid, if nothing else. It says public spending growth can’t exceed the percentage growth in population and inflation. Period.

[Continue reading…]

Lead poisoning5. North Carolina is headed backwards on childhood lead poisoning  

When the NC legislature adjourned last week, they left behind some unfinished business. One bill left hanging, House Bill 1074, would have required (and paid for) lead testing in the drinking water of every school and child care center in North Carolina. We applaud Rep. Mike Hager (R-Burke) for his leadership on this issue, and sincerely hope that he will continue to push for lead testing in the 2017 session.

We absolutely support the legislature’s effort to ensure that children’s drinking water in schools and child care centers is free from toxic lead – but it’s important to keep in mind that only about 20 percent of children’s lead exposures actually come from drinking water. The vast majority come from their homes, where particles of lead from older house paint break down and become part of the house dust that is inhaled and ingested by small children, irreversibly damaging the developing brain. Soil in backyards and playgrounds can also be contaminated with lead from older sources, and that becomes part of the house dust lead mix, too.

[Continue reading…]

Also, don’t miss our next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Predatory payday lenders: Is North Carolina rid of them for good or will they make a comeback?
Featuring our special guest, Tom Feltner of the Consumer Federation of America

When: Wednesday July 27 at 12 noon

Where: The Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets).

Click here to learn more.

News

State officials tout record highs in N.C. Education Lottery profits, but there are caveats

EducationState officials are touting record profits from the N.C. Education Lottery, according to an Associated Press report Thursday. 

From the AP report:

The North Carolina Education Lottery says it’s had another record year for ticket sales and net profits.

Lottery officials announced Thursday ticket sales for the year ending June 30 totaled nearly $2.4 billion, generating almost $608 million for education. Ticket revenues were 20 percent higher than the year before. A year ago, net profits were $521 million.

Lottery Executive Director Alice Garland says scratch-off games and the record $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot in January contributed primarily to the record sales.

Sales and net profits for the state have increased every year since the first tickets were sold in 2006.

The legislature directs lottery profits go for public school construction and non-instructional staff, financial aid for university and community college students and pre-kindergarten for at-risk 4-year-olds.

This would seem to be good news for state education dollars, but, of course, there are obvious caveats, some would say.

Many critics say GOP leadership in the N.C. General Assembly often supplants general fund spending with lottery dollars, but the net results aren’t positive for state schools.

Democrats in the legislature attempted this session to direct a portion of a lottery windfall toward helping teachers pay off students loans, but that measure stalled in May.

Here’s an in-depth report this March from the Smoky Mountain News in western North Carolina on the questions surrounding education funding derived from the state’s decade-old lottery. 

Also, if you have the time, take a few minutes to watch a 2014 take-down of the state lottery in a segment by HBO comedian John Oliver. 

Commentary

After a brief moment of sanity, Newt Gingrich flips out again

011410_1650_NewtGingric1.jpgFormer U.S. House Speaker and perennial presidential/vice presidential candidate Newt Gingrich made some headlines the other day when he uttered some semi-sane words about the reality of being a black American and how white people fail to grasp the challenges that their fellow citizens of color face every day.

Unfortunately, Gingrich headed back over to his usual abode in Crazy Town yesterday with a new and certifiably insane series of statements about Muslim Americans. Esther Yu-Hsi Lee of Think Progress reports:

“Muslims who can’t pass a test to ensure that they are compatible with Western civilization should be deported, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested following a terror attack involving a man who plowed into a crowd and killed more than 77 people in Nice, France.

‘Western civilization is in a war,’ Gingrich said on Thursday night during a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity. ‘We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.’

In the same interview, Gingrich — who is being considered as a potential running mate for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump — said the idea that Islam is a peaceful religion is ‘bologna.’

‘We need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are,’ Gingrich added. ‘Anybody who goes on a website favoring ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups, that should be a felony, and they should go to jail. Any organization which hosts such a website should be engaged in a felony. It should be closed down immediately.'”

No word yet on whether Gingrich favors a formal repeal of the Bill of Rights or would simple recommend suspending it on an ad hoc basis.

You can read the rest of the Think Progress story by clicking here.