News

Tillis_McCrory_Berger-400Governor Pat McCrory and two of his predecessors have filed suit against the General Assembly, arguing that their creation of various commissions usurps the authority of the governor’s office and violates the separation of powers clause in the North Carolina Constitution.

“These commissions make government less accountable to the will of the people. Citizens and voters must be able to distinguish which branch of government is responsible for making the laws and which branch is responsible for carrying out the laws and operating state government,” Governor McCrory said in a press release.

McCrory said recent examples of unaccountable commissions include the proposed Board of the Department of Medical Benefits, the proposed Social Services Commission and North Carolina’s Coal Ash Commission, which will hold its first meeting Friday.

The governor says while the case winds its way through the court system, the legal dispute will not hinder his ‘shared agenda’ with the General Assembly.

Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis responded by saying Governor McCrory’s arguments were flawed from both a legal and public policy perspective.

Here’s the joint statement released by the two legislative leaders:

“Today the governor sued to stop independent boards created in two bills – one he chose to sign and another he allowed to become law. He vetoed neither,” said Berger and Tillis. “The General Assembly’s right to appoint members to independent boards – which are beholden to no single appointing authority and provide truly independent oversight – is far from new and has long been upheld by our state Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the governor’s costly and time-consuming lawsuit to ensure he picks the majority of regulatory board members ignores history and detracts from their important work.”

You can read the 18-page complaint here.

News

A group of Wilmington-area charter schools has given up on its fight to keep secret the salary information of its employees.

On Thursday, Charter Day turned over the data requested more than a month ago by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, allowing the management company to be removed from “financial probationary status” which had threatened state funding.

Despite marking the documents trade secrets, the Wilmington Star-News reports that salary information will be made public early next week:

‘The state Thursday said it intends to make the salary information provided by Charter Day public even though the school group had marked it as “trade secrets.”tradesecret

In an email, DPI spokeswoman Lynda Fuller said the state intends to release the information at 5 p.m. Monday.

There’s a standard provision with state contracts that if during the bidding process a vendor marks something as a trade secret that officials don’t find as a trade secret there is a 48-hour delay before that information can be released.

That’s the practice officials are employing here, according to DPI officials.’

Charter Day contracts with Roger Bacon Academies to operate its school in Leland as well as Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, Douglass Academy in Wilmington and South Brunswick Charter School in Bolivia.
News

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina released the names of the 17 board members Friday that will oversee the state’s new privatized job recruitment system.

The partnership officially launched in October when the state contracted out much of its job recruitment and tourism division to a private group. A central piece of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s jobs platform, the public-private partnership approach to economic development has had mixed results in a handful of other states.

Proponents of the structure say moving the job recruitment duties and $16.5 million in public funding out of state government allows for more flexible and faster responses to leads in recruiting jobs to the state. Critics of the partnership say that the privatized structure encourages a pay-to-play culture, where campaign supporters of political leaders are rewarded or successes amplified to boost the public profiles of governors.

Final decisions about financial incentives will rest with the state Commerce Secretary.

North Carolina’s economic development partnership had been operating under an interim board headed by John Lassiter, a Charlotte businessman and former city councilman close to the governor. Lassiter also used to be the chairman of Renew North Carolina, a political-action committee that can accept anonymous donations from corporate donors and individuals to trumpet McCrory’s successes. Lassiter resigned from the group in early 2014.

But Bob Singer, a Greensboro attorney appointed by McCrory to serve on the new economic development group, remains the head of Renew North Carolina, according to 2013 documents filed with the N.C. Secretary of State’s office.

Read More

Commentary

060810_1509_Environment1.jpgThe good people at Environment North Carolina and their national allies released a powerful new report today that’s worth your time to check out. It’s called “Waterways Restored: The Clean Water Act’s Impact on 15 American Rivers, Lakes and Bays” and it does at least two extremely important things:

1)  It demonstrates the amazing success of a vitally important environmental protection law — the Clean Water Act, and

2) It makes the case for saving that law from the relentless attacks of corporate polluters and restoring it to its original intent of making all American waters safe for fishing and and swimming.

As the report explains, the Clean Water Act has, over the last 42 years, made enormous strides in cleaning up and preserving our nation’s waters. The report highlights 15 of these success stories, including North Carolina’s North Fork First Broad River, which has, thanks to the CWA, been been preserved as a pristine fishing venue and home to numerous endangered species. Other, more urban waterways like Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River and Boston Harbor have been brought back from the dead to become thriving and healthy sites as a result of the law.

Unfortunately and not surprisingly, major polluters continue to fight the law at every turn. Several years ago, they secured a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling that created some giant loopholes in the law and essentially excluded a huge number of the nation’s streams and waterways from protection. As a result, 56% of North Carolina’s rivers and streams are no longer protected by the law as they should be.

To correct this glaring gap in the law, the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA have proposed new rules to clarify that thousands of rivers and streams now excluded will be included in the law’s protections. The new report calls on these agencies to go ahead and finalize these new rules as quickly as possible.

Click here to read the report. The discussion of the North Fork First Broad River can be found on pages 25 and 26.

News

Remember the “Star Chamber” bill, signed into law last summer by Gov. Pat McCrory? That’s the bill rushed into last minute passage giving the justices of the state Supreme Court the sole authority to discipline judges — including themselves – and allowing them to decide if, when and who to discipline in secret.

Aside from support from sitting Justices Mark Martin and Paul Newby — whom lawmakers then identified as pushing for passage — the bill drew widespread opposition from other judges and justices of the state Supreme Court as well as all living presidents of the state bar association, who in a letter asked the governor to refuse to sign it.

The bill became law nonetheless and, as current bar association president Catherine Arrowood notes in this News & Observer commentary, “for the first time in 40 years, North Carolina voters cast their ballots for judges without any information about pending judicial ethics complaints.”

In a call for repeal, Arrowood continues:

Permitting the Supreme Court to discipline itself does not have the ring of fairness. If a justice on the Supreme Court violates the Code of Judicial Standards while running for re-election or fails to recuse himself or herself appropriately, the Supreme Court itself will be conducting the hearing. And the public will not know about the fact of the proceeding unless and until the court decides if the justice accused is to be disciplined. I cannot imagine that the members of our court find this a palatable or proper process.


A secret trial behind closed doors is the hallmark of a totalitarian government (if indeed any trial is allowed at all), not a democracy. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that an accused, no matter his or her status, have a public and open trial. This presumption that our courts will be open, subject to very limited exceptions, also finds roots in the First Amendment. Under the First Amendment, the press and public must be allowed reasonable access to view proceedings in our courts.