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The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. North Carolina lawmakers remind us yet again why they’ve earned our distrust

In the first two paragraphs of state Rep. David Lewis’ ludicrous and lamentable plea for a special session this week, ostensibly to rescue the GOP-approved constitutional amendments from liberal “gamesmanship and politics,” the Harnett County Republican mentions the word “maneuverings” twice.
If you’re having difficulty processing Lewis’ use of the word, you’re not alone. After all, Lewis is the overseer of a decade of nakedly partisan gerrymandering, a divisive figure and Karl Rove-style political strategist who’s adept at manipulating process and voters to Republican advantage.[Read more…]

2. PW exclusive: Beach nourishment bingo?
NC lawmakers bypass DEQ, allot $5 million coastal research grant to politically connected Winston-Salem nonprofit

A North Carolina nonprofit with deep political connections received $5 million in the state budget for a beach nourishment study and design project, even though it has never done that type of work and is headquartered more than 250 miles from the coast.
Lawmakers appropriated the funding to the Resource Institute, based in Winston-Salem, through a one-time “grant-in-aid” – pass-through money – from the state Division of Water Resources. The amount is the largest grant-in-aid from the Department of Environmental Quality since at least 2005, according to state budget documents.

Yet, DEQ said it did not request the earmark; in fact, lawmakers appropriated just $1.8 million to DEQ to conduct its own work related to GenX and emerging contaminants.[Read more…]
Bonus reads:

Go Backstage: How I got the Resource Institute story, plus a guide to documents for budding sleuths, citizen journalists
Concerned about methyl bromide, DEQ puts log fumigation permits on hold

3. Expect anything different?
The lawless leaders of the General Assembly prepare to do once again the thing they do best
It’s always tempting to open each and every commentary about the North Carolina General Assembly in 2018 with that most ubiquitous of modern pop culture phrases: “You can’t make this s[tuff] up.” After all, when it comes to brazen, autocratic assaults on traditional American notions of democratic government, no one does it better than Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and his always ready and willing sidekick, House Speaker Tim Moore.

Even Vladimir Putin’s bumbling buddy in the White House – hemmed in as he is by a handful of federal and state judges, a semi-watchful news media, the prospect of criminal prosecution for any number of offenses, and an occasionally disagreeable Congress (except when it comes to packing the federal courts) – has yet to pull off the kind of raw, “because-I-said-so” power moves that are as common in Raleigh these days as a #MeToo complaint addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. [Read more…]

4. NC law enforcement officials: We have no idea how many children are in adult jails
“Raise the age” will soon become law, but for now, state does not track where 16 and 17-year olds are held
How many of North Carolina’s children are currently locked up with adults in a county detention facility? How many were housed with adults last year? And the year before?

No one actually knows the statewide count. In fact, the last year that statewide information was made available was in 2013, when the N.C. Department of Public Safety (DPS) still kept track of county detention facility data.

The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association is tasked now with keeping those statistics, including how many jails still house juveniles and adults together, where they are located and how many children are locked up every year with adults. [Read more…]

5. New UNC Board of Governors chairman holds his fire at first meeting in charge
As Harry Smith opened Thursday’s UNC Board of Governors meeting – the first since he took over as chairman – he struck a conciliatory tone even as he doubled down on conservative changes he’s championed for the system.
Smith, a Greenville businessman, is part of an aggressive, conservative faction on the board that has quarreled with current and former board members and even UNC President Margaret Spellings.
But at Thursday’s meeting, Smith seemed to be reaching out to those with whom he butted heads as a vice chairman of the board while looking to move into the top spot. [Read more...]

UPCOMING: Crucial Conversation – North Carolina’s constitutional amendments blitz: What should be done?
In the final harried days of the 2018 legislative session, North Carolina lawmakers took the unprecedented step of voting to place six constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Register today for a special program on August 8th to discuss the amendments with state Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr. and former North Carolina General Assembly Special Counsel Gerry Cohen.
Learn more and register.

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