The week’s Top Stories on NC Policy Watch

1. Anita Earls sworn in as new Supreme Court justice in standing room only ceremony

The newest state Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls had a swearing in ceremony Thursday afternoon that drew a crowd of North Carolina’s biggest movers and shakers in both the legal and legislative world.

Earls wore a classic black skirt suit with an airy white blouse and a shiny gold and silver floral broach pinned onto the middle of her collar. She had the state Supreme Court seal pinned to her lapel. Her big smile was shining; her happiness oozed, and the hugs she gave the people in the room were genuine — it was not the state many are used to seeing her in, particularly in the courtroom. As an attorney, Earls was always the epitome of buttoned up and professional, remaining cool, calm and collected even during what could be perceived as intimidating moments. [Read more…]

2. Five takeaways from Gov. Cooper’s document dump about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Gov. Roy Cooper’s office did coordinate with state environmental officials on the timing of a key water quality permit approval and a controversial $57.8 million deal with Dominion Energy over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. But a Policy Watch review of more than 19,000 pages of public records found no evidence that the voluntary fund, outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding between Cooper’s office and Dominion, explicitly greased the way for project to proceed. Republican lawmakers have repeatedly alleged that the permit approval was contingent upon Dominion ponying up $57.8 million for a voluntary economic development fund. Both the approval and the fund were announced on the same day, Jan. 26, 2018, just 23 minutes apart.[Read more…]

3. The 9th District mess: Where things stand and what comes next

Mark Harris met with state elections investigators Thursday morning, pledging full cooperation with the board in the increasingly complex investigation into alleged ballot fraud in November’s 9th Congressional District race.

The same morning, Harris’ lawyers sued the state board of elections, asking the Wake County Superior Court to compel the board’s director to certify the election results before the investigation is complete.

As the 116th Congress was sworn in Thursday in Washington, D.C., North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District seat was the only one empty. The new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has made it clear they will not seat anyone until questions over the legitimacy of the election have been answered.[Read more…]

4. The giant policy elephant in the room at the start of 2019

Well, another new year is upon us and the public policy landscape is, in many ways, more crowded and contentious than ever. Everywhere one turns, there are large, important and hotly contested issues to be examined and debated and yawning ideological divides to be confronted and overcome.

Name the issue – taxes, the economy, the growing wealth and income gaps, health care, education, racism, gun violence, freedom of speech, immigration, gender equality, LGBT equality, reproductive freedom, voting rights, gerrymandering, the relationship between church and state, the criminal justice system, the composition of the courts – and one can quickly identify several urgent and contentious matters that deserve our attention and hard work in 2019.

Now overlay onto this complex and challenging policy environment the hard reality posed by a President of the United States who is widely understood to be a mercurial and narcissistic serial liar and the situation gets that much tougher.[Read more…]

5. The case for gridlock or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the veto

When Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly reconvene next week, they’ll return to a colder Raleigh.

Not an inhospitable place, mind you. Those golden doors into the House and Senate chambers in Raleigh still open for them, these benefactors of a grimly gerrymandered map that’s past due for its day in a North Carolina courtroom. And their ruthlessly efficient leadership will hold all of the keys, maintaining a throttle grip on the legislative committees that can advance or shun prospective bills at will.

Yet their silver bullet, their Cooper-proof majority, built to withstand the governor’s veto power, is a right-wing nostalgia piece these days, buried beneath what amounts to an avalanche of left-leaning votes in November.

For the first time in his term, Gov. Cooper, a Democrat once exiled to the bully pulpit if little else, will hold something over this legislature’s head.[Read more…]

6. Wayne County superintendent thinks ‘restart application’ will be a slam dunk

On paper, the options before the state Board of Education next week regarding the much-discussed Carver Heights Elementary School in Wayne County seem simple.If the board does not approve the school’s Restart Model application to grant the school charter-like flexibility, then Carver Heights will be taken over by the state and transferred to the controversial Innovative School District (ISD).

And if the board does approve the Restart Model application, then Wayne County schools leaders would have until the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year to improve student achievement or be transferred to the ISD beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. The board meets for the first time this year Jan. 9-10. [Read more…]

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