Commentary, Defending Democracy, Environment, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

 

1. Supreme Court blocks lower court’s order for NC to redraw partisan congressional maps

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted state lawmakers’ request to block a lower court’s order for them to redraw the 2016 congressional maps because of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

The order was released Thursday evening. It grants the stay pending the timely filing and disposition of an appeal.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the stay, according to the order.

The U.S. District Court ruled last week that state lawmakers intended to maximize partisan advantage when drawing the 2016 congressional map and thereby discriminated against non-Republican voters. A three-judge panel gave the legislature until 5 p.m. Jan. 24 to redraw the maps and said they would also hire a special master for time’s sake.

Lawmakers requested a stay from the panel — it was denied — and the Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the League of Women Voters, a plaintiff in the one of the two partisan gerrymandering cases, urged the Supreme Court to move quickly through the appeals process. [Read more…]

2. GOP senator’s email promises “relief” to class size crisis in March

A fix for North Carolina’s class size crisis in March?

A GOP senator from Wake County tells his constituents that he believes state lawmakers will proffer “relief” when they return in March, according to an email obtained by Policy Watch.

“We are still trying to gather information from all 100 counties of the state, to ensure that any fix is amiable to all,” Sen. John Alexander wrote in an email last week.

Alexander—who co-chairs a key Senate budget committee—was responding to pleas for the state legislature to provide additional funds or flexibility to local school districts in advance of a pending mandate that they slash class sizes in grades K-3.

The Wake County senator wrote that the relief comes after “much discussion, research and hard work over the last several months,” although he offered no specifics on any plan. [Read more…]

3. Is Trump finally approaching his McCarthy moment?
Latest racist attacks on immigrants could be an important tipping point

As bleak as our national political landscape may seem right now, it’s worth remembering that it is far from the only time in American history in which a dangerous, dishonest and delusional con artist has held a position of great prominence. In the early 1950’s, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin rode his paranoid and dishonest witch hunt against supposed “communist subversion” to become one of the most famous and powerful men in the nation.

It seems hard to imagine now, but there was a time during which even President Dwight Eisenhower, the enormously popular and well-respected hero of World War II, lacked the political courage to take on McCarthy in public, even though he knew him to be a dishonest charlatan. [Read more…]

4. Historical Commission members to grapple with Confederate monuments issue next week

Back in September, the N.C. Historical Commission put off a decision on removing three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds. Instead, the commission formed a task force to study the politically fraught issue, which the North Carolina General Assembly dropped into their laps with a 2015 law that makes it more difficult to remove such statues.

Next Monday at 3 p.m., that task force – the Confederate Monuments Study Committee – will have its first meeting via teleconference. The public can listen in via a livestream on the YouTube site of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

With the issue of Confederate monuments such as “Silent Sam” on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill still a controversial one, the group’s work could have wide-ranging implications.

David Ruffin, chairman of the Historical Commission, says that the issue is still a sensitive one and the group will have to reach some consensus. [Read more...]

5. Strange bedfellows? Polluters, environmental groups form new coalition to lobby state government

On a cozy autumn evening at the luxurious Umstead Hotel in Cary, a medley of corporate luminaries, state lawmakers and environmentalists made small talk and mingled over drinks. The occasion: the formation of a new “unconventional partnership” with a “bold mission.”

North Carolina Forever, said Kathy Higgins, vice president of corporate affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield, “will bring together diverse interests” to encourage  “reasonable and necessary investments” in land conservation and water protection.

Shared on Facebook, the 27-minute video features Higgins, who is also NC Forever’s board chairwoman, invoking Article 14, Section 5 of the state constitution. It reads, in part:

“It shall be the policy of this State to conserve and protect its lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry … to acquire and preserve park, recreational, and scenic areas, to control and limit the pollution of our air and water ….”

She concluded: “We’re grateful to Smithfield Foods,” which started a similar group, Virginiaforever, 10 years ago, “for bringing us this model.” [Read more…]

*** Bonus read: Digging out: Let’s keep the de-icer, road salt out of our water supply

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