Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. 12 years of negligence. 1 million gallons of manure. A $64,000 fine. A Jones County hog farm is out of business — for now.

On a sultry day last September, Megan Stilley arrived at Lanier Farms, a large swine operation in rural Jones County. An environmental specialist with the state’s Division of Water Resources, Stilley investigates complaints of illegal spills and other environmental violations. The people responsible are rarely glad to see her.

Shortly before noon, Doug Lanier and two of his farmhands met Stilley at the site. He was upset that news of his farm’s illegal discharge the day prior into the Trent River — eventually determined to be 1 million gallons of feces-laden wastewater — had been posted on Facebook by a local TV station.

A terse verbal exchange ensued. “At that point,” Stilley later wrote in her inspection notes, “I felt uncomfortable being there alone.”[Read more…]

*** Bonus read:

2. Special update: Controversial bill on class size, pipeline fund, elections/ethics board merger heads to the Governor

An omnibus bill alleviating some of the headaches associated with North Carolina’s class size crisis easily passed the state House by a 104-12 margin Tuesday, despite continuing opposition from top Democrats on its controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Board of Elections provisions.

Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who helped to assemble last week’s compromise conference report on House Bill 90, said the bill gives districts “much requested” time to prepare for the state’s new K-3 class sizes by phasing in its caps on average and maximum class size over the next four years.

The legislation, which also creates a $61 million recurring funding allocation for arts, music and physical education teachers, comes after years of mounting pressure on the Republican-dominated General Assembly to either ease their 2016 class size mandate or provide additional funding to save those so-called “enhancement” teaching positions. [Read more…]

*** Bonus reads:

3. Keeping up with the…judicial maps – There are now more than there are Kardashians

Lawmakers late last week released two new versions of a judicial redistricting bill, making these the eighth and ninth maps released since last summer.

The two new maps, dubbed “Option B” and “Option C” are nearly identical with the only change made to district lines in Durham County.

The maps differ from “Option A,” the proposal released a little over two weeks ago, in all of the larger metropolitan counties and in the two districts encompassing Union, Anson, Richmond, Scotland and Robeson counties.

Lawmakers also added several district court judges, subtracted a few, and added one superior court judge in the new proposals. [Read more…]

4.Taking cynicism to new levels
The General Assembly’s latest mashup legislation is an example of government at its worst

In the complex world of modern politics, it’s easy to imagine scenarios in which difficult compromises must be made. Sometimes, the circumstances are such that there simply isn’t any way for elected leaders to proceed without making multiple accommodations to multiple parties.

Hence, among other things, the distasteful but sometimes necessary phenomenon of the so-called “Christmas Tree” bill that is packed with all kinds of disparate provisions that have only one thing in common: they’re necessary to secure the votes of enough lawmakers to get essential underlying provisions passed into law. Such bills may often go too far and be fraught with problems, but at least they’re typically driven by a spirit of pragmatism and negotiation. [Read more…]

*** Bonus commentary:

5. Legislators hope to find a compromise and a new home for UNC’s controversial Confederate statue

Students, faculty and staff at UNC continue to protest the Chapel Hill campus’ Confederate monument, “Silent Sam.” The North Carolina Historical Commission continues to grapple with whether it can legally remove the statue.

When the General Assembly reconvenes in mid-May, a group of Democratic state lawmakers say they’ll attempt what might be the impossible: a compromise solution.

“There certainly are not the votes in the General Assembly to remove it from campus,” said N.C. Rep. Verla Insko (D-Orange). “We’re working on a bill to move it inside somewhere – somewhere it can be safe and there won’t be the confrontations over it.”

Insko suggests the campus’ Wilson Library or Ackland Art Museum might be good locations –  places the statue could still be available to the public and a reminder of the history it represents, but not in its current place at the entrance to the campus. [Read more...]

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