News

voteThe justices of the U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear yet another election law case, this time from Texas and concerning the “one-person one vote” principle of the 14th Amendment.

That’s the rule requiring that to the extent possible voting districts be drawn with same-sized populations  — so that one person’s voting power is roughly equivalent to another person’s within a state.

Here’s more from Rick Hasen at the Election Law Blog:

In a surprise move, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from a three judge court in Evenwel v. Abbott, a one-person, one vote case involving the counting of non-citizens in the creation of electoral districts. Ed Blum, the force behind the Fisher anti-affirmative action case and the Shelby County case striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act is also behind this case. The question involves whether Texas can draw districts using total population rather than total voters, an issue especially important given non-citizen Latinos living in parts of Texas. The claim is that representatives from these areas with non-citizens get too much moving power. A ruling in favor of the challengers would be a boost for areas with fewer numbers of non-citizens living there.

News

Note: As has been reported below, the degree discontinuations do not necessarily mean the opportunities to study in these areas are going away. Many of the programs are being consolidated into similar majors or degree offerings.

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors decided at its meeting last week to whittle down the types of degrees offered at various campuses.

UNCsystemThe culling came from a combination of campus requests and a regular system-wide review of programs with low enrollments that’s conducted every two years.

The discontinuations don’t necessity mean the opportunity to study in those areas are going away. Many of the degrees being cut were absorbed into other majors, with concentrations offered.

At East Carolina University, for example, individual undergraduate degree programs for French, German, German K-12, French K-12 and Hispanic Education will be consolidated into a single degree of Foreign Languages and Literature.

At the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, students can still study in the specialized education areas, their degrees are just being combined with similar degree offerings.  The bachelor’s degree program in child and family development is being absorbed into a nearly identical major, where participants also earn a license. (Previously, students had the option of not receiving a license, an option for students who wanted to work in daycare setting which don’t always require licenses.). Also, the master’s degree offering in special education, adapted, is being merged into a more general master’s program in special education.

Many of those being cut and combined into other degrees are educational training programs, with the review noting that out of the 221 degree programs with low enrollments, 46 of those were related to education.

That’s part of an ongoing issue that the UNC system and state education leaders are grappling with, given a 27 percent drop from 2010 to 2014 of those wanting to pursue teaching as a career. The situation, many fear, could lead to a teacher shortage in the state.

The 46 degrees being discontinued are below (information from UNC report on academic degree productivity):

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Please note, that many of the programs are simply being merged into more general degree offerings, with the educational offerings remaining the same.

To read the entire report about the degree discontinuations, click here.

The board also appointed two new chancellors last week – state Medicaid director Dr. Robin Cummings became the new head of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke campus, while the University of North Carolina at Greensboro found out its new chancellor is Franklin Gilliam Jr., a public affairs dean from UCLA.

Commentary

McCrory budgetThe General Assembly presented the controversial “ag gag” bill to Governor McCrory last Wednesday May 20. The Guv has 10 days to sign or veto the bill (which, by my calculations, means he needs to act by this Saturday). He could also just ignore it — in which case it would become law also.

The bill, as you will recall, would create liability for any person (including employees) who gain access to “nonpublic areas” of employer premises and who then, without authorization, record images or sounds and then use those recordings to breach their “duty of loyalty to the employer.”

Today, the folks over at Public News Service published another worrisome story about the possible impacts of the bill in which a credible argument was advanced that the measure would silence potential whistle blowers in numerous fields beyond agriculture:

“While the bill has made headlines for its potential impact on whistle-blower investigations on factory farms, critics maintain the broad language of the bill could also impact investigations at nursing home and day care facilities.

‘This ag gag bill has sweeping and broad impacts on the safety of really every resident in North Carolina,’ says Matt Dominguez, public policy director for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States. ‘If you have a parent in a nursing home or a child in day care, they are going to be put in harm’s way by this bill.'”

Let’s hope that, at a minimum, the Governor fully explains his actions rather than taking the easy way out (as he has done with multiple controversial bills in the past) by simply letting the measure become law without his signature. On such a matter, the public deserves to know where McCrory stands.
News

1. Senate to OK SEPA Reform bill
The NC Senate is expected to give final approval today to the SEPA Reform bill. The Sierra Club notes that House Bill 795 would essentially repeal North Carolina’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) “by creating so many exceptions that there would likely be no projects that would be subject to the law.”

Environmental Defense Fund’s senior analyst David Kelly recently discussed with NC Policy Watch how HB 795 would significantly limit the number of projects that require environmental review under state law:

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The Senate convenes at 2:00 p.m.

2. Public forums on the selection of the next UNC-system president
The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors will be hosting four public forums around the state in connection with its ongoing search for a new system president. The 32-member board opted back in January to dismiss Tom Ross, the system leader since 2011.

This week’s regional input sessions will be held in:

  • Asheville: 7 p.m. on May 26, at the Sherrill Center (Room 417) at UNC-Asheville’s campus.
  • Greenville: 7 p.m. on May 27, East Carolina Heart Institute (Room 1415) in Greenville.
  • Durham: 7 p.m. on May 28, Mary Townes Science Complex (Room 1111) on N.C. Central University’s campus.

Want to attend? Find more information on the forums here.

3. Magistrates Recusal bill re-emerges
marriage amendmentWednesday at 12:30 p.m. the House Judiciary I committee takes up the controversial Magistrates Recusal bill. The legislation allows magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex marriage for six months if they have a “sincerely held religious objection.”

Supporters of Senate Bill 2 maintain the measure simply preserves First Amendment religious freedom. Opponents argue the legislation is discriminatory and sets a precedent allowing any county employee to decline to perform job duties he or she finds to be objectionable. The committee debates the bill at 12:30 p.m. in Room 415 of the Legislative Office Building.

4. State Unemployment Rate to be released – North Carolina’s unemployment rate for April will be released this Wednesday. In March the statewide rate stood at 5.4%.

5. The NC Teacher Pipeline Crisis – A Community Conversation
On Wednesday, MeckEd and the Public School Forum of North Carolina will host a thoughtful conversation in Charlotte about the teacher shortage facing our state and strategies to address it.

This event will feature a panel discussion followed by a town-hall style Q&A. Confirmed panelists include Ann Clark, Superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS); Dr. Chance Lewis, UNC-Charlotte School of Education; Bill Anderson, Executive Director, MeckEd; and Keith Poston, President & Executive Director, Public School Forum of North Carolina. The panel will also include a CMS classroom teacher. The public and media are invited to attend.

The event runs from 8:00am to 9:30am at Piedmont Natural Gas, Auditorium B, 4720 Piedmont Row Drive, Charlotte, NC.

6. Raleigh Moral Monday on Wednesday: Healthcare & Environmental JusticMoral Mondays 2e
The NC NAACP and the Forward Together movement hold the 3rd Moral Monday on Wednesday in Raleigh, uplifting the unjust refusal of Medicaid expansion, coal ash being dumped in our communities, unregulated pollution from industrial meat production in poor and minority communities, fracking, and the attacks on women’s health.

The event gets underway at 5:00 p.m. at Bicentennial Mall, across the street from the NC General Assembly. You can find more information here.

Commentary

Please join us next week for a special NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon —

Will lawmakers bust North Carolina’s clean energy boom?
Featuring Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association

Solar powerAs has been reported recently by N.C. Policy Watch and other media outlets, some powerful North Carolina politicians and interest groups appear to have it in for solar power and other forms of sustainable energy.

Recently, they helped advance legislation in both the House and the Senate that would freeze North Carolina’s “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard” (or “REPS”) – a law that requires a growing percentage of the state’s electricity load to be provided by renewable sources. Current law places the REPS requirement at 6%, but it is scheduled to grow to 10% in 2018 and 12.5% in 2021. Together with some other provisions, REPS is a big part of the reason North Carolina has one of the nation’s fastest growing solar energy industries. Unfortunately, all of this could change quickly if the “freeze” legislation continues to move forward.

Please join us as we explore this timely and critical issue with Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA).

Click here to register

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